EQUESTRIAN: Olympian Sam Griffiths has won the Badminton Horse Trials, the world's most prestigious annual three-day event
EQUESTRIAN: Olympian Sam Griffiths has won the Badminton Horse Trials, the world's most prestigious annual three-day event and with the victory has pocketed more than $140,000AUD in prizemoney.
It is a historic triumph for Griffiths, who is only the sixth Australian to take top honour at the premiere event. In winning he follows in the footsteps of past Australian winners which include Bill Roycroft (1960), Laurie Morgan (1961), Andrew Hoy (2006), Lucinda Fredericks (2007) and Paul Tapner (2010).
Leading into Sunday's show jumping decider, Tapner was poised to become the first Australian to win the Badminton title for the second occasion but in a suspenseful end to a gruelling competition, Tapner and his mount Kilronan knocked four show jumping poles which saw them slip to fourth position.
London Olympian Griffiths and his 11 year old Irish mare Paulank Brockagh, are unexpected victors, having been in 25thposition following the dressage phase.
"It's a dream come true for me. After being 25th after the first day there was no way I thought I'd be on the podium, let alone winning.
"It's a testament to how hard my horse tried. She dealt with all the mud (on cross country day) and went beautifully. She was a star.
"I've shed a few tears already.
"I think will wake up tomorrow and think it's a dream, it might take a while to sink in," he said.
Victorian born Griffiths who now resides in the UK, moved into fifth position following cross country after a taxing course further hampered by wet and windy conditions reduced the field from 83 to 32. Griffiths and his mare incurred four jumping penalties during the show jumping decider, which clinched victory for the 41 year old.
Great Britain captured second and third positions through Oliver Townend (Armada) and Harry Meade (Wild Lone).
Although she had three time penalties, Australia's Atlanta Olympic gold medallist Wendy Schaeffer (Koyuna Sun Dancer) produced the only clear jumping round of the day and she finished in 12th position.
Of the remaining Australians left in the field Chris Burton and TS Jamaimo finished in 16th position while Bill Levett and Shannondale Titan finsihed in 27th place.
The prestigious Badminton Horse Trials, which has been contested since 1949, is widely regarded as the pinnacle of three-day eventing outside of an Olympics and World Championships and with less than four months to go until the World Equestrian Games, Griffiths' victory is a huge boost for Australia's campaign to achieve a podium finish.
Griffiths made his Olympic debut at London 2012 having been brought into the Australian Team with his horse Happy Times at the last minute as a replacement for Megan Jones who had already replaced Shane Rose. In London, Griffiths placed 6th in the team event and 62nd in the individual.
Full results at www.badminton-horse.co.uk