With WEG drawing ever closer, I’m sure I’m not the only eventing fan who is waiting with bated breath for more news about the GB Squad. Who will be picked for the Team (of 4), and which two will run as an individual? As a reminder, the Squad comprises:
- Tina Cook (43) from Worthing, West Sussex with Mr Jim Chromiak and her own De Novo News
- William Fox-Pitt (45) from Sturminster Newton, Dorset, riding Mr Christopher Stone’s Chilli Morning
- Harry Meade (30) from Chippenham, Wiltshire, riding Mrs Charlotte Opperman’s Wild Lone
- Zara Phillips (33) from Stroud, Gloucestershire, riding Gleadhill House Stud Ltd’s High Kingdom
- Oliver Townend (31) from Ellesmere, Shropshire, riding Karyn Shuter’s Black Tie II
- Nicola Wilson (37) from Northallerton, Yorkshire, riding Mary and Barry Tweddle’s Annie Clover
After very strong showings at Luhmühlen and Aachen, the Germans look as if a Gold is pretty much a certainty, barring a very difficult XC course and one of their rare off days (which have been known, but not for a good while). They have an incredibly experienced & well-mounted squad and are all capable of producing dressage in the mid 30s (or less!) and double clears. Team GB will probably be aiming for a solid silver or bronze medal, and not risking it all trying to beat the Germans, because the top 6 teams will qualify for Rio, and of course we also have in particular, in addition to the Germans, the French, Swedish, Swiss, Australian, New Zealand, Canadian and American teams to worry about.
Traditionally, the Team GB selectors pick someone who is as guaranteed-as-possible to go clear and fast XC as the Pathfinder, to nail that essential first good score and provide valuable feedback to their team members. Nicola Wilson has done this job admirably on her irrepressible Opposition Buzz in recent years (apart from last year’s Europeans, when they were not selected), but will the selectors put the same trust in her and Annie Clover? If not, perhaps Zara, who thrives under pressure?
The coveted last place is usually given to the rider with the highest chance of an individual medal, so that they have more chance of riding for individual as well as team glory, if three really solid team scores have already been posted. Will William Fox-Pitt be anchorman this time, even though it is reportedly not his favourite place in the team?
For what it’s worth, my team would probably be: Nicola, Tina, Zara, William, but not necessarily in that order! As to who will run as individuals, I’d therefore say Harry and Oliver, but it’s a very difficult call, and the Selectors’ decision will be fascinating.
We can only devoutly hope that those 6 horses stay sound and get to WEG, but if there are any last-minute injuries, the full list of nominated reserves is:
William Fox-Pitt and Bay My Hero / Parklane Hawk
Oliver Townend and Armada
Nicola Wilson and Beltane Queen
Gemma Tattersall and Arctic Soul
Izzy Taylor and Orlando
Jodie Amos and Wise Crack
Sarah Bullimore and Reve Du Rouet / Valentino V
Louise Harwood and Whitson
Richard Jones and Highland Ford.
While I don’t dispute that those riders and horses hugely deserve the accolade of being listed as reserves, there is one glaring omission, a combination which is surely more logical than some of those chosen: Francis Whittington and Easy Target.
This horse has 14 clears at 3* under his belt with Francis, and good runs at 4*. He was clear and looking fantastic at every fence over this spring’s very difficult Badminton course on such sapping going, until Francis made the very mature decision to pull up his tiring horse at Huntsman’s Close, rather than risking a fall.
‘Smokey Joe’ has a great record in the SJ (clear or 1 down every time for the last 3 seasons with only 1 blip – 12 at Belton this spring) and his dressage is now nailed in the 30s or low 40s area, after extensive winter training from Ian Woodhead. He led the dressage at Gatcombe CIC*** on 35.6 (no mean feat in such a fantastic field) and Francis thought they had been harshly marked at Badminton, where they were given 36.2.
There may be a slight doubt about his speed around a long and twisty track, which WEG is likely to be, but he’s a fantastic jumper and there aren’t many better XC riders in the world to get him round, plus he’d be likely to have 10 or 20 penalties in hand after the dressage over some of those chosen, whose dressages are more habitually in the 50s (or higher). Some only have 3* form, and I suspect the WEG course will be a 3 1/2 to 4* test.
The more I compared the results of some of those chosen up against this combination, the more confused I became. All I can say is that I hope Francis will have better luck next year! The WEGs are going to be a fascinating competition, starting with Team and order-of-go choices. We’ll keep you posted as soon as we hear about them.
All photos by Katie Mortimore for e-Venting.