World number one event rider Oliver Townend has withdrawn from this week’s Badminton Horse Trials (8-12 May).

The rider confirmed his decision today (7 May), explaining that his ride, Ballaghmor Class (Thomas), was not as fit as he would have liked, adding that he was “gutted” but that it was not in the horse’s best interests to compete.

“He had a abscess earlier in the season and consequently missed a couple of runs and gallops,” Oliver said. “This morning he went for his final gallop and with the 11.5 mins cros-country course combined with the possible soft ground we don’t feel he’s at his normal five-star fitness right now.

“This is the first time in his career he’s missed a five-star and with the Rolex Grand Slam being at stake (for the third time for me!) and Thomas’s record with 10 top-five placings at five-star, four of which from Badminton including twice second place, and his three wins at Burghley and Kentucky, we really hoped he would finally get the Badminton trophy he so badly deserves.

“He’s fit and well, and knowing his huge heart he’d give us his all, but it’s simply not in his best interest to run this week and his welfare is our top priority.”

Oliver won Burghley last autumn on Ballaghmor Class, and earlier this month he won Kentucky on Cooley Rosalent. Seventeen-year-old Thomas, who was part of Britain’s gold medal-winning team at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, finished second at Badminton last year.

Oliver added that Ballaghmor Class would be rerouted to ‘plan B’, an thanked his owners, sponsors and team who are “equally gutted but support us to make this call to look after our superstar”.

Event Director Jane Tuckwell said that the team were “devastated for Oliver and highly respect his decision not to run”.

“We look forward to welcoming Oliver and Thomas back to Badminton in 2025,” she added.