ESJ's Olympic Team Selections Part 4 – The Aussie


Stuart Tinney and Panamera, winners at the Aus Three Day CCI4* last year

If you have been following this series so far, you will know I have tackled the Canadian, US and New Zealand teams to date and to be honest while I did fuss over some of the selections, the teams almost picked themselves. Team Australia is much harder and one I have deliberated over for a few days before putting pen to paper. When I spoke with Eventing High Performance Manager Prue Barrett in January she told me that about 75% of the Aussie Elite or A Squad could easily be on the team.  I thought, “yeah right.”  As it turns out, that is not that far off the mark.

The problem I had when selecting an Aussie team was I ended up with too many combinations that should go–nice problem I guess. Another titbit from Prue was that eight horses (most likely) will make it into camp (in the UK). Those that go into camp that don’t make the team will have the chance to run at Burghley or some other European events.
So here it goes.

First up, I think there is only one pair that doesn’t need a CCI run in the next few months to prove their worth for the team–a fitness run only will see Stuart Tinney and Panamera on the plane. Panamera won the Australian Three Day (Adelaide) in November. This mare has been ticking along with nice results for the last few years but has sat in the shadow of Stuart’s former number one mount Vettori and also Watermark Greyson. Both of these horses have recently been sold to Italian riders. Stuart has been successful in marketing his horses in Italy in recent years, both Ava and Carrera who have now been ridden under the Italian flag for a few years came from Stuart.

Before we leave Stuart despite having sold two four star mounts in recent months, he still has two other reserve mounts on the list, Orchard Hill and Pluto Mio. Both very good horses but Panamera is the pick of the bunch.

First up on the Aussie Elite list is Bill Levett and One Two Many NJ, this horse is a relatively green mount for veteran Bill.  They had a great result at Saumur last year in the CCI 3* coming second, adding just 2.4 time to their dressage score, but failed to back that up with a solid performance at Blenheim where they picked up 20 XC plus 12 time. At this stage these guys would make my maybe list–a little green, but a solid top 10 Badminton would change that. Badminton will be their first four star attempt.

Next on the list is a personal favourite of mine Chris Burton and HP Leilani. Following a good start at Burghley with a mid 50s dressage test, Leilani, who had never quite seen a fence like the Cottesmore Leap before, misread it resulting in the mare getting hung up momentarily and Chris being popped out of the saddle. Burto was devastated and tried to re-route to Blenheim the following week but failed on a technicality so the pair did Pau with a credible 8th place despite 3 rails in the jumping. This pair have a brilliant World Cup record, 1 x 1st, 2 x 2nd, 1 x 3rd and a 12th not bad. Leilani is a very long horse and she may not be ideal for the tight, twisty track at Greenwich. For now, this pair go on the maybe list, and we will see what the spring results bring.
 
Next up on the Elite list is Clayton Fredericks with three mounts Be My Guest, Dunges Laurent Rose and Bendigo. All three could go to Greenwich and place top 5, so I guess the question for the selectors is which one to take. Given that Clayton is based in the UK, they have the luxury of picking the best of the three as a close as possible to the Games. Right now my choice would be Be My Guest. This is a relatively new mount for Clayton who picked up the ride from Dirk Schrade of Germany in mid 2010. At their first outing the copped an E on XC but since then they have been top 20 with four of their seven results in the top 5. A third at Burghley followed by a 5th at Rolex make this combination real contenders.

Next on the list for Clay is Dunges Laurent Rose, this 13 yo mare has managed top 10 on their last six outings including two 4* events, my only concern with this mare is she regularly pulls a rail or two, in fact in her last nine outings she has managed a clear jumping round once. Not enough to exclude her from a team, but enough to think about.
 
Finally comes Bendigo. This horse is the greenest of Clayton’s four star mounts but shows some real talent with solid finishes but low 40s and sometimes low 30s dressage, this horse is capable of sub 50 finishes and even sub 40 is not out of the question. Personally although greener that Dunges Laurent Rose, I would put this gelding as Clayton’s number two mount at this stage.

Here it gets interesting with Craig Barrett and Wendela Jamie. Craig is Prue’s husband. This pair has been consistently building a partnership for a while now. They have achieved top 20 results (most of them top 10) in their last 13 outings, but for me are a little light on three star results with only four–no four star–however their win at Melbourne last year puts them in the mix. I honestly think they will need a top 5 at the upcoming Sydney CCi3* to go into camp, I wonder if being Prue’s partner actually puts an extra impediment in his way, Sydney will be the litmus test. Craig also has Sandhills Brillaire that got a nice third place last weekend in amongst three other horses mentioned in this story. The Sydney event will be VERY interesting.


Emma Mason and F1Pharinelli at Scone last weekend, they finished 2nd to Shane Rose and Taurus

Next up is Emma Mason and F1 Pharinelli.  This combination is very interesting. Emma for starters is a professional rider with her eyes firmly on winning gold, but unlike most pro riders, she holds down a day job. Emma is a successful and hard working Lawyer. Legend has it that she is up each morning before dawn, working horses with a torch on her head and then after day break, jumps in the shower and heads to work before, fitting in a game of touch football and heading home for some more work with the horses.

Emma and F1 Pharinelli have been clocking up some miles with some great results. Lets start with this stat: in 16 starts at CIC3* to CCI4* they have one result outside the top 15, a 23rd. In three four star starts, a 3rd, 6th and 15th. These guys are consistent, I want them on my team for pure tenacity. They will go to camp, no sweat. This pair came second last weekend at the tough Scone CNC3* event, hot on the heals of Shane Rose and Taurus.

Another combination that doesn’t always get the headlines but are great performers are Natalie Blundell and Algebra. This pair has two top tens at Adelaide (CCI4*) under their belts and has been top ten in their last six, 3* events. Nat and Algebra will be traveling to New Zealand in a few weeks as part of the Aussie Trans-Tasman team to compete at Kihikihi, this will be their first overseas trip and will be a make or break for their team prospects. I have no doubt they could perform in London and have them as a maybe.
Sam Griffiths and Happy Times made a return to top level competition last year following the injury sustained by the gelding at WEG in 2010. With a 4th at Badminton and 16th at Burghley they have proven that little if any legacy remains from the injury. What does concern me is that in their last three events they have had 3 or 4 rails. To pull three rails in the team show jumping at an Olympic Games can mean the difference between gold and that warm bucket of spit t
hat is fourth place. I have
my concerns. A clear jumping round at last years Burghley had them in third place in front of Mary King and King’s Temptress, instead they dropped three rails and down to 16th.

Sonja Johnson has the stunning thoroughbred Parkiarrup Illicit Liaison following the retirement of her long term partner, Jag. This horse presents a quandary for me. On face value the results look good, but I am not convinced. It is hard to argue with the close second behind Stuart Tinney at last year’s Adelaide. But that result included a 4 for jumping which they get at almost every outing. The dressage is improving but tips below 50 only on occasion. I know this pair is coming to some amazing stuff, I’m just not convinced that will happen at London or whether Normandy is a better bet? That said, Sonja being the tough bugger she is will probably go out and win Sydney in a few weeks with a clear show jumping round and prove me wrong, I hope she does.

There are two other Aussie horses on the Elite Holding (read injured) list both have been out of action since mid 2010, so I don’t expect them to be making a return for London–Paul Tapner’s Inonothing and Bill Levett’s Hippolyte.

Having looked at the Elite List, 15 other horses are on the A Squad List (excluding Stuart’s two, already discussed). What real London prospects lie on the list? These guys are an outside chance given the talent above, I think for the Aussie based combinations they need a top 5 at Sydney, for the UK based combos a top 10 at Badminton would get you to camp. There are also two pairs in the US to watch for the Aussies. EN favourite Henny is making his comeback with Peter Atkins as legal dramas and colic now seem to be well in their past. Their stunning Red Hills result will certainly put them back in the eyes of the selectors and I hear they are diverting from Rolex to Badminton which will be very interesting. While they are not currently on a the A squad, a Badminton top 10 would put them on the list and in contention for London. Kadi Eykamp and Double Rivers Dillon at on the A squad list too and a brilliant Rolex could bring them into contention too.

Personally I only see a couple of horses on the A squad that are likely to make camp with a great performance in the coming months.


Christine Bates and Adelaide Hill at Adelaide last year

Christine Bates and Adelaide Hill are a pair that can pull off some brilliant results. They may be a little green at three star level but they had a great Adelaide despite an issue at the keyhole and I would not be surprised at all to see this pair in the mix after Sydney, especially after their great result at Scoen last weekend.

Megan Jones has her mount Kirby Park Allofasudden also primed to steal a spot on the plane to the UK. This TB gelding has lived much of his career in the shadow of Jester, who I think may have been retired after last year’s Adelaide, following a long battle for fitness following illness leading up to WEG in 2010. Allofasudden has had only four results in his FEI history outside the top 10 and the most recent of those was in 2007, this horse is consistent. With plenty of three star experience and three four star starts with the worst result a 6th last year (the other two were second). It is hard to see why this horse is on the A squad rather than the Elite squad. If they continue with current form and pick up a top 10 in Sydney, they deserve to be on the plane.

There are three more combinations left that interest me. First up is Shane Rose and Taurus. This pair is looking to make up for their jumping round at Adelaide which dropped them from the XC lead to 5th place with four rails. They are capable of really good dressage and Shane on XC is a sight to behold. They are also traveling to Kihikihi on the Trans-Tasman team and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Shane make bold bid for selection with a great Kihikihi and then backing up four weeks later for the Sydney three day.

Tim Boland and GV Billy Elliot have shown flashes of brilliance, with plenty of top 10 places to their names. My concern is consistency, I am not sure they are consistent enough under pressure to take to London, what I do know is that the selectors will keep a close watch on them and if the start of their season is anything to go by, they will be in the money. At the season opening Sydney midweek event in the CNC 2* class, Tim held four of the top five places with Billy Elliot in first place.

Wendy Schaeffer has been busy in Europe with her team of horses mostly focusing on gaining a spot on the Aussie jumping team for London. But Wendy is an Eventer at heart has been plugging away with Koyuna Sun Dancer. While they were eliminated at Pau in the jumping (of all phases, Wendy is a brilliant jumper), this horse won Adelaide in 2010. I expect to see them run at Badminton (this was confirmed just the other day) and they may come into the mix at that stage.

Finally, Kevin McNab has chucked his hat into the ring thanks to Frances Stead and the team at Clifton Eventing, he will be traveling to Rolex with Clifton Pinot. After Rolex this pair will head to the UK and keep preparing for London, so who knows what will happen.

OK, so here goes the prediction.
Stuart Tinney – Panamera
Clayton Fredericks – Be My Guest
Emma Mason – F1 Pharinelli
Megan Jones – Kirby Park Allofasudden
Shane Rose – Taurus

I am squeezing out Sam Griffiths and Happy Times.  This pair would easily make the list if their jumping improves but at the moment they sit just outside the top 5. So there you have it, the best Aussies at the moment. But there are at least five more combinations snapping at their heels, any of those could jump into contention with a brilliant result in the next 8 weeks. In the meantime there will probably be several voodoo dolls made in my honour.

Yours in Eventing and voodoo dolls,

ESJ

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