So the question after Badminton and Kentucky has to be, how on earth do the selectors begin to decide who has deserved a shot at going to the World Equestrian Games (WEG)?
I will hold my hands up and say I am purely an armchair watcher so do not know the ins and outs of everything but I think it’s interesting to have a look at.
Normally Badminton is a traditional ‘trial’ for those looking to get a shot at going to WEG, so it will be fascinating to see what happens after Bramham and Luhmühlen.
What we did see at Badminton can be examined more closely.
Pippa Funnell & Billy Beware (or Redesigned)
Wow, what a horse Billy Beware is and only 10 years old. I have loved this horse since seeing him at Barbury as a 6yo winning the high jump competition jumping 1.85m easily before Pippa wisely pulled the plug as he looked like he could have gone bigger. His dressage was impressive at Badminton and will only get better, his cross country was bold and I think his show jumping will be stronger with better ground. Pippa took Redesigned to WEG back in 2010 as an individual and finished 5th on the back of winning at Bramham. The only question mark about this horse will be his ability to cope with tight, twisty courses as he took a lot of setting up round Badminton with his long stride and though he has run round Fontainbleau it was at CIC1* back in 2012 and not the CIC3*. My feeling is that they will go but as an individual.
Izzy Taylor – Briarlands Matilda
Though this combination only had the one mistake on cross country which was a bit unlucky, their dressage was off the pace from the rest of the field (Dr 57) and it comes on the back of results which are not confidence-inspiring, having been eliminated for a fall at Pau (Dr 54), picked up at 20 at Malmo, and retired at Badminton (Dr 54). Their form is probably not strong enough for WEG.
William Fox Pitt – Bay My Hero
Bay My Hero looked pretty handy at Kentucky and Derek Di Grazia had deliberately built some French style questions on the cross country course, so I wonder if he will be first choice over Parklane Hawk, Seacookie and Chilli Morning. It is reported that Parklane Hawk suffered an atrial fibrillation after his fall at Badminton, and though it corrected itself I imagine they will very much take things slowly with the horse to see how he comes back.
Mary King – Imperial Cavalier
It looked like the horse had just lost a bit of confidence after his blip at the Outlander Bank which resulted in his stop at the pond. Imperial Cavalier was 12th after dressage which is one of his best scores at 4*. There is talk of him retiring so I think we have to assume that he will either have an easier ‘fun’ season or that he will be retired. Mary does not seem to have anything else to take over from Imperial Cavalier at the moment.
Oliver Townend – Armada
Oliver Townend has been on fire this year, winning practically everything he has entered. You have to feel slightly sorry that everyone has been going on about Harry Meade’s comeback which has overshadowed Oliver’s result here. I felt that this was a worthy result for Armada who has been knocking on the door for years. He is not an easy horse and if there was ever a course meant for a horse, it was Badminton this weekend. Ollie has been getting better and better dressage scores with this horse including a 39 at Burnham Market . Having looked at his scores for the last three years he averages out at 45 which is a pretty good score except that Michael Jung finished on 33 at Kentucky back in 2010, WFP won silver on 42 and Andrew Nicholson bronze on 43. The horse is also liable to have poles but he is a cross country machine. You would think he would be an excellent shot at team pathfinder replacing Opposition Buzz whose dressage was around the same level if not slightly worse and prone to having poles. It depends on what you need and in order to beat the Germans, there needs to be a reliable back up horse in case your 3 expected bankers do not pull it off.
Harry Meade – Wild Lone
It was a magnificent comeback story but ultimately this horse’s dressage is not team material though it has improved from last year. He has also not gone double clear at FEI level since 2010. He might get an individual slot to get Harry experience but I think we will see him doing other things or Aachen rather than getting a ticket to WEG.
Tina Cook – De Novo News
I thought Tina did brilliantly to pick herself up after having that stupid mistake at fence five. They looked great round the rest of the course and the horse finished full of running. It would have been easy for Tina to have raised the white flag and re-route but actually I think they look better for having done it this way. This horse finished 10th at Burghley last year so has form, he is still young and apart from his two small blips at Badminton has a good record. The horse has consistent dressage results but they are not good enough to take on the Germans with their scores in the 30s. But he is an excellent jumper. His faults in the sjing at Badminton were rare. A tricky one which will become clearer after Luhmühlen, and with what the Germans are out doing this season, but he would certainly have to be a consideration, and Tina has vast experience.
Gemma Tattersall – Arctic Soul
I felt desperately sorry for Gemma Tattersall at the Huntsman’s Close. The horse looked amazing round that course and I said to a friend that he looked like a 4* horse. It’s a shame we did not get to see Arctic Soul show jump but I really think there is more to come from this combination. I am not sure this year is his year, with regards to making it to WEG but he is a hugely impressive horse and one who looks as though he will keep improving. I would expect to see this combination possibly go to Aachen to get more exposure.
Sarah Cohen – Treason
This pair pulled up at the Mirage Pond after seeming to go well. I fully expect them to re-route to Luhmühlen, as though they have been impressive up to now they have a lot to prove after a 20th last year at Burghley, when the rider was perhaps not as fit as she could have been due to recently having a baby. A good result at somewhere like Luhmühlen could see them come into the reckoning.
Francis Whittington – Easy Target
An impressive round at Badminton until Francis pulled up at Huntsman’s Close. The dressage looked nailed and looking at other results they score in the mid 40s with clear capability of scoring well. The horse went round Badminton last year with 8 time faults on the cross country. His show jumping looks pretty reliable as well. I was initially concerned about the horse’s ability to make the time, as he has one of the best cross country jockeys on him but he has made the time at Blenheim which is a notoriously tough track to make the time on. I think a few really good runs at CIC3* could bring them back into the hunt for selection.
Sarah Bullimore – Valentino V
Sarah has an enviable stable of horses at the moment. Valentino V is the most promising with a stream of good results including 9th at Pau last year, I have kind of forgiven the showjumping at Pau with three down, as the surface always causes issues. The horse looked to be going really well cross country at Badminton until they tipped up at the log and had a horrible looking horse fall. This seemed to be just a blip and I think as long as the horse comes out from his experience ok then they will have a great shout. Reve du Rouet looked super at Rolex but it may be a bit early for him as there looks to be some improvement to come.
Personally I feel British Eventing is going through a bit of a lull, we have some great riders and good horses but no out-and-out winners apart from WFP. If you look through the Burghley and Badminton results of last year they look lacklustre compared to what the Kiwis, Aussies and Germans are doing at the moment. At the Euros, we were disappointing but hopefully we can pull it out of the bag. We have a few to see run at CCI level including:
Izzy Taylor has some cracking prospects in Orlando, Allercombe Ellie and Dax Van Ternieuwbeke. Dax was entered at Badminton but did not go so a very likely chance he will go to Luhmühlen. Allercombe Ellie is entered at Tattersalls and I am not sure where Orlando will go but it looks a likely choice will be a CCI3*. I think Izzy looks better and better as a rider and that any of these could make the jump up with a good performance.
Nicola Wilson – One Too Many is an impressive horse and I see this as the future superstar for Nicola over the two mares. I would expect to see them go to Bramham. If you are wondering why I have not mentioned Beltane Queen it’s because I do not consider her show jumping to be reliable enough for a championship as has on average 3 fences down, though it was a good dressage and cross country performance at Badminton.
Zara Phillips – High Kingdom. I feel that these two just have to show they are back on form and that Zara is fit enough. I expect to see them at Luhmühlen.
Kitty King – I think I have envy whenever I see any of Kitty’s horses. Persimmon is pretty special with a great performance at Boekelo. This horse is super impressive in all three phases and it looks like he is entered at Tattersalls 3*. This year might be too soon but he is a super impressive horse. Zidante has not appeared since last year after her unfortunate fall at the last fence at Saumur, which is a shame as she is also super special. I hope we get to see her out and about soon.
Once we have seen Bramham and Luhmühlen run then we can have another look at this list and revise it!
Is there anyone I have missed? Who do you think will make the team?