You may or may not have read my course preview for the Mitsubishi Motors Cup, if you didn’t you should read it here first.
Ok now you’re caught up on the course we will happily predict this year’s competition will not solely be decided on dressage scores. Combine a tough course at both levels with what is likely to be on the soft side of perfect going and jumping horses are going to come to the fore. But given the average qualifying score to reach the BE100 final was 29.1 all the qualified horses are capable of a very good dressage test in the right conditions.
As the resident statistician here at e-Venting I like to look at the numbers and look for patterns and I decided to have a look at how having competed at Novice level BE may or may not be an advantage for combinations. The Mitsubishi Motors Cup BE100 championship is quite unique within BE championships as it’s the only level that heavily restricts being able to compete (successfully) at the level above despite the championship itself being a step up from a standard BE100. (note: the Gatcombe restricted championship restricts riders competing at Intermediate but the championship is a standard novice track).
The championship itself is considered to be a BE100+ (the showjumping height was originally at 100 but increased a few years ago), but the cross country now, is well known to easily equal a Novice in technicality, albeit not height. Because of this the best way to prepare has always been a tough question. Horses have to be grade 4 (no points) at the ballot date for the Regionals and as of this year can have up to 7 points at the ballot date for the finals. Given that horses qualifying for the finals will often be achieving double clears at BE100 with a good dressage, going novice is a risky business as even knocking a pole or picking up a few time penalties doesn’t stop points adding up. Previously horses could only gain 4 points so it was even tighter still.
So I took a look at the results since 2010 and 2012 in more detail to see if having competed at novice either on the qualified or another horse was an advantage or not.
Firstly lets look at how many riders had competed at novice prior to the finals over the last 6 finals. (Note: To be classified as competed at novice the rider/horse must have started the XC phase, with no time limit to how many seasons ago that had occurred.)
So on first glance a lot of those who finish in the top 20 have competed at Novice at some point. It should be noted that for the 2012 finals, which were held in 2013 due to abandonment in 2012, horses were allowed to go on and gain unlimited points after the abandonment.
Next it is interesting to see 2013 was the only year the winning rider has not competed at novice. 2013 though had the smallest amount of championship starters with only 35 which is less that 50% of the 82 that started in 2015. There were two reasons for the low numbers, firstly the horrendous weather in early 2012 resulted in far fewer combinations qualifying for Regional Finals and therefore reducing the number of places available at the finals. Secondly some prospective combinations were already qualified for the 2012 finals so could not compete in both finals.
2015 saw a distinct rise in the riders not having competed at novice being placed in the top 20 and particularly the top 10 but in turn we saw the biggest field so far of 82 combinations.
Lets now look at the 2012 onwards fields in more detail to see just how many riders across the whole field had competed at Novice and how the prospective 2016 field compares to previous years.
I chose to look at 2012/13 onwards in more detail as that was the first time the XC track really made an impact on the final results. It took a couple of years to get the course pitched correctly and make it a true championship and 2013 (which included the 2012 final) was that year.
2016 is going to be the biggest field yet and interestingly with exception of the 2012 final where the rules were relaxed, it will be the year with the highest number of starters both in number and percentage terms where the horse and rider combination has competed at novice.
If looking very matter of factly at percentages the presumption would be you would expect horses with experience at the higher levels to be strongly weighted in the top 20, but in reality this hasn’t been the case. Each year the % of combinations with novice experience in the top 20 roughly correlates with the % that have novice experience who start. Although if you remove 2012 which we know was somewhat skewed from the averages overall it does seem that novice experience on the entered horse gives a slight advantage for a top 20 position but not a top 10. Whereas novice experience on any horse overall gives a slight advantage overall but not a notable one.
In reality I could have gone into a lot more detail and looked at whether if a combination had competed at novice if they had completed and if their average completion score and the number of runs. Unfortunately due to the data collection methods (looking at each record individually on the BE website) this would have been a very time consuming affair and the level of detail would have proved difficult to classify combinations. From looking through all 218 records though I would take a feel that actually those combinations with numerous runs at novice wouldn’t have shown to have a distinct advantage as many horses have had multiple runs prior to qualifying (and in turn having never gained a point doing so) generally did not perform that successfully at the finals. Those though that had their limited novice runs between qualifying and the finals AND also had successful novice runs (winning points) would find themselves at a slight advantage.
Ultimately having actually competed at novice is not a sure way to improve your chances at the finals, but it does help on the presumption that the horse is capable of competing confidently at novice. For most riders their preparation can equally be done away from BE Novice competitions and still be just as successful. Pure 1m10 showjumping rounds and schooling over technical combinations whilst choosing top end BE100 events can be equally beneficial.
Carrying on from this for 2016 I would predict at least half of the top 20 places will be riders who have competed at novice, which could well also include the winner, and about half will have competed novice on their entered horse. Looking through this year’s finalists’ records in detail I have 8 on my list as potential winners. 5 have competed novice on their qualified horse, 2 more have competed novice on a previous horse and 1 hasn’t competed novice ever. I will not name names as at this level I don’t believe on putting on any additional pressure, but I will be interested to see if I’m right come Wednesday.