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Oliver Townend to lead British challenge at Badminton Horse Trials

Oliver Townend will arrive at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials as eventing's new world No.1 – and he could depart by amassing a £460,000 windfall.

The 35-year-old leads a strong British challenge at the sport's showpiece four-star event, which begins in Gloucestershire on Thursday.

And Shropshire-based Townend said that he "cannot wait to get there and get working".

He arrived home from America on Monday after winning the Land Rover Kentucky event on Cooley Master Class, which has also set him up for a full-scale tilt at eventing's richest prize – the £255,000 Rolex Grand Slam.

Successive Burghley, Kentucky and Badminton victories constitute an eventing clean sweep so rare that only two other riders – reigning Olympic champion Michael Jung and Britain's Pippa Funnell – have achieved it.

Badminton also carries a £100,000 top prize, and Townend has already collected £105,000 from the combined efforts of Cooley Master Class and seventh-placed MHS King Joules in Kentucky.

Townend will be aboard his reigning Burghley champion Ballaghmor Class at Badminton, along with Cooley SRS, the horse on which he helped Great Britain to European team gold in Poland last September.

"I like getting on a roll - everyone does," Townend said. "Let's just hope it continues.

"We are always hopeful, and I was quietly confident in Kentucky. Cooley Master Class was exceptional.

"Ballaghmor Class proved himself at Burghley and while Cooley SRS makes his first step up to this level, he has got a bit of mileage at the level below.

"If they both put their best performances forward, then they shouldn't be far off. I am happy with both horses, and I just hope they give me their best and I give them mine, and we will see where we end up.

"I love going to the big events, I love going to Badminton and I will try to enjoy every minute of it. I can't wait to get there and get working."

Jung, who Townend has replaced at the top of eventing's world rankings, clinched the Grand Slam at Badminton in 2016, and he features prominently among a number of fancied potential winners across four days of dressage, cross-country and showjumping.

German star Jung is on his double Olympic gold medal ride La Biosthetique Sam FBW, with Jung and Townend being joined by fellow former Badminton champions in Funnell, title-holder Andrew Nicholson, four-time winner Mark Todd and Australia's Sam Griffiths.

And lining up alongside Townend to make a concerted push for British success are the likes of last year's Event Rider Masters series winner Gemma Tattersall, Townend's fellow European team gold medallist Ros Canter, an in-form Piggy French and multiple four-star event winner William Fox-Pitt, who rides Fernhill Pimms.

The spotlight, though, will inevitably fall on Townend, who added: "People kept saying was (the Grand Slam) the reason why I was in America? And deep down, of course it was the reason.

"But at the same time there was no point in talking about it then because I had only won the one four-star of it at Burghley. Now we've done two, so it becomes a talking point.

"For me, Badminton and Burghley are the ones I absolutely love, and I am really looking forward to it."

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