The Double Dans doing an amazing trick on an Eventer
Today in Adelaide, it was action packed in so many ways, take the Double Dans (above) for instance, this trick was tried today for the first time, the horse jumping is a one star event horse that Dan rode for the first time 20 mins before I took this shot. They entertained the crowds twice today with a lunch time performance before this trick in the twilight (not the movie).
There was plenty of movement in the 2* dressage, Wil Enzinger (Flowervale Maserati) took the early lead before Debbie Kopp (King Tim) took over and then Shane Rose and CP Qualified finally took an unassailable lead. Final 2* results are here.
Flowervale Maserati with Wil Enzinger on board looking stunning
In the 4* class Stuart Tinney (Pluto Mio) took the early lead with a nice test leaving them on 49.8 penalties. With a small field like this (14 starters) the dressage flew by. The field included a mix of Australia's best and some new riders stepping up to four star level. The Ground Jury of Christian Landolt of Switzerland, USA's own Marilyn Payne and Australia's Jill Sinclair truly appreciated Shane Rose's (APH Moritz) test with the pair scoring 69.45% or 45.8 penalties.
Shane Rose & APH Moritz leaders after dressage in the CCI4*
The final mover on the leaderboard was Craig Barrett who entered the ring last on Wendela Jamie and from the outset they looked fantastic. I spoke with Craig after the test and he said the horse just came onto the bit and stayed with him the whole time, he couldn't have asked for more. Craig and Jamie slipped in front of Stuart to finish on 47.3 penalties. Full results for the Four Star here.
One of the great things about Adelaide is that it attracts our overseas-based riders, so far this weekend I have spied Sam Griffiths, Paul Tapner, Clayton Fredericks and Chris Burton swanning around. These guys have spent a lot of time in dark sunnies signing autographs although William Fox-Pitt has stolen many of their adoring fans.
Chris "Burto" Burton wearing his safety thongs (flip-flops)
Cross country tomorrow is sure to be challenging, tough and hot. It is expected to be hot 33C (91f), the vets have asked for a small change in the course, allowing the horses to finish and head straight into the cooling area.
Cross country starts at 10am for the 2 star and 4 star at 2:20pm Adelaide time.
I leave you with a couple of pics from the Double Dans and dressage.
Megan Jones & Kirby Park Allofasudden, the newest members of the Aussie Olympic Eventing Team, image by John Lechner | ESJ Photo
Hey EN, it's ESJ remember me? I know it has been over a month since my last post on EN, it actually feels like longer. It's not that I don't love you anymore, it has simply been the first time in a while I let life get in front of Eventing. Well for a little over a week anyway on a family holiday and since then I have actually slept better and today is the first day in about six weeks that I have got up just after 3am to write.
So where have I been? Firstly I took a holiday with my family, I left Facebook, Twitter and EN behind. We were in sunny Phuket, Thailand when they announced the Aussie Eventing team. That alone left me a bit dumbstruck. The fact that I was completely out of the loop added to the controversy that erupted at the time.
I actually thought about putting my fingers on the keyboard several times about the Aussie team and each time I was left with the feeling that I couldn't write something completely positive so I didn't do it . In the end no matter who ends up wearing the green and gold outfits this weekend I want to support them.
So anyway here comes the actual story I decided to write, Why I could never be an Olympic Eventer.
Lets get the obvious out of the way before you starting peppering the comment with sarcasm. I am a crap rider and currently don't even have a horse, so that makes it a little difficult to be selected. However there are some other traits I just don't have.
Dogged determination: While I don't like being beaten and strive to do the things I do well, I do not get up every day with thoughts of a singular goal in my head. That gold medal while nice requires a lot of sacrifices I am not sure I want to make. Can I sleep in if I want? Probably not for that chance at selection.
What about the heartbreak Shane Rose and Megan Jones have suffered in the last couple of days, as with many Eventers before them and into the future. There are two athletes in every combination to keep at their absolute peak of condition. Things go wrong, years of work can go awry in an instant. How do you face a media conference and say, we will be back?
I honestly wish I had the guts to know what that feels like because I know how horrible it felt sitting at home watching on my laptop, it was heartbreaking.
A strong dose of OCD: Working with horses is about building a relationship and routine. You can't change your training methods every day, you must be annoyingly consistent. C onsistency is something I struggle with, I get bored so easily it is not funny. But can I work on perfecting my extended trot every day or jump a corner 50 times to make sure we have it down perfect? Absolutely not.
A missed chance is a miss for another four years: Yes we all want win Badminton, Burghley and WEG but to be an Olympian is an honour, to be a gold medalist the highest honour. Four years of preparation can fall apart in a moment and suddenly you have another four years to prepare. I am an impatient bugger, I don't like waiting 4 minutes let alone 4 hours. I would simply give up if I had to wait 4 years. I know there are many steps on the journey in between but simply I couldn't do it.
Shane Rose and Taurus at the Sydney Three Day Event, image by John Lechner | ESJ Photo
Self belief: Not only must you have a brilliant horse or preferably three or four, the determination, skill, patience but you must absolutely believe you can do it. That means you need a strong and supportive team around you to help pick you up on those days when you do forget you are good enough. You must believe in yourself.
Your team: The team around you must be absolutely solid in their support for you achieving your goal. They must be prepared to make hundreds of sacrifices every year to help you get to your goal. Holidays are a great example. I just spent eight days in Phuket, drinking cocktails by the pool and shopping in the tropical sun.
There is no way if I was chasing Olympic gold we could afford this either financially or in time. So is your family prepared to give up their dreams and aspirations to support your goal of Oympic glory, mine aren't. Don't get me wrong my wife Kim and my boys are highly supportive of my aspirations and worldwide travel with my sport but not at the expense of being able to do things as a family.
Poverty: We all know that living with horses is an easy way to poverty. Working with a horse or team of horses at the elite level is a costly exercise and unless you are lucky enough to marry into wealth or sold your last Olympic prospect for a cool million, chances are you throw every single spare dollar you have into your horses. No fancy restaurants for you, in fact McDonalds becomes fuel for travelling long distances with a truck loaded with horses nothing else. Holidays are days when you don't work horses not actually going somewhere. All your birthday and Christmas presents are horse related. Besides what things can't be fixed with baling twine??
You must ignore what people write and say about you: Everyone has an opinion, look at me, I write some crazy stuff. For me it was brought home when I got a call from an Aussie rider about a story I had written in the lead up to selection. The whole process to even get to the point of being considered for an Olympic team is an emotional roller coaster. If you want to stay even remotely sane, do not read the stories written about you. If you do not want to turn into a raging lunatic then you MUST NOT EVER read the comments about you. Talk to the media, be nice, smile for the pics and then forget about it, otherwise you may not have the courage to get out of bed tomorrow.
Tim Boland and GV Billy Elliott, one of the travelling reserves for the Aussie Team, image by John Lechner | ESJ Photo
Finally, you have to be the best: Every week, whether at four star or novice every time you get on a horse you must be thinking of being the best, taking the next step to Olympic glory. Me personally I'd rather just fork over the cash and come and watch the best. Bring my trusty Nikon and hope I shoot some great pics of the best in action.
When I wrote my series on the teams that I believed would be selected for the Games I did it in full knowledge that I was taking a stab in the dark. I upset people along the way, even though that was never my intention. What I did learn however is how focused and determined the best are. I admire every single one of them for all of the reasons above. I know that I could never do it even if I had the skills. I just don't have the fortitude, most of us don't and that is why we admire these guys and girls so much.
This Olympic Games will be one of the most hotly contested Eventing competitions in a long time. I wish our sport, our horses and our riders all the best. No matter which teams and individuals end up on the medal dias, it will be exciting. I just wish I was in London to witness it first hand.
Tim Boland & GV Billy Elliot at Sydney, image by ESJ Photo
Sometime in the next two weeks I expect the Aussie selectors to finally declare their hands. My guess is at the moment, they are currently cutting up little squares of paper and writing horse names on them. Because to be honest they have too much choice.
Back in March when I wrote my story on the Aussie team and picked my team I honestly thought the Aussie team was the hardest to pick. Having selected (my choices only) seven teams for seven Nations. The Aussie team is no clearer to me than it was in March.
Heartbreakingly, the one horse I thought was guaranteed a spot was Stuart Tinney's Panamera, which has since picked up a suspensory ligament injury and will not be available for team selection. At one stage I thought Clayton Fredericks was ruled out after having been trodden on by his mount at Saumur in a fall in mid May. Clayton was out last weekend and on winning form so he is still in the mix.
Then there is the serial agitator of the Aussie selectors Tim Boland. Tim and GV Billy Elliot have for a long time been able to pull off the best dressage test in Australia from an Eventer, although Mystery Whisper was giving him a run for his money at one stage.
But Tim & Billy had cross country issues, racking up time a little too regularly and the odd 20. But recently they have sorted that out and now this pair has suddenly gone from being in the peripheral vision of the selectors to standing proud, heads held high yelling "pick me!"
Emma Mason & F1 Pharinelli at Sydney CCI3* in April, image by ESJ Photo
Last weekend at the Melbourne 3DE in the CCI3* Tim & Billy added just 6.8 time to their impressive 35 dressage score to finish a full 17.4 in front of Shane.
As for their former slow ways on XC, they were 4th fastest in fact, Shane (who is normally fastest) was a full 13 seconds slower than Tim. This and recent performances including coming a close second to Shane and Taurus at the Sydney Three Day Event in April put them firmly in the frame.
That frame is quite full, in fact there are 13 horses on the Aussie Elite list and all but two (Panamera and Be My Guest) are still in contention. In addition, there are another 17 horses on the A-Squad and at least half of them are in contention as well.
The A-Squad includes Megan Jones - KP Allofasudden, Shane Rose - Taurus, Christine Bates - Adelaide Hill, Emma Scott - Mustang, Stuart Tinney - Pluto Mio, Tim & Billy, Andrew Hoy - Rutherglen, Chris Burton - Haruzac, Lucinda Fredericks - Prada, Wendy Schaeffer - Koyuna Sun Dancer and more.
Shane Rose & Taurus at Kihikihi Horse Trials, image by ESJ Photo
The final showdown for hopefuls is this weekend at Luhmuhlen where we will see up to nine Aussie pairs vying for spots; in fact, there are two hopeful to skip the A-list and Elite squad and go straight onto the Olympic squad: Peter Atkins and Henny making their return after Peter's broken leg, and Kevin McNab with Clifton Pinot hoping to make a last minute impression after missing Rolex due to a minor injury.
There will be combinations ruled out in the coming weeks due to injuries big or small, in fact it is important to remember that when picking a team, the selectors make a list and then the team vet, and in the case of Australia, Denis "Bear" Goulding will have the last say as to who makes it onto the team.
I expect 5 horses to make it onto the plane in Sydney in a couple of weeks, they will narrow the squad down in the UK, just days before the Games.
Megan Jones & Kirby Park Allofasudden, image by ESJ Photo
As to who will make it on the plane, perhaps Equestrian Australia should just charter the whole plane and send the lot, let them all mix it up in the UK & Europe for a few months.
Who the selectors will pick is anyone's guess, as I said at the start they could just write the names on paper, chuck them into an Akubra and pick five.
Who do I want to see on the team? Well that backs me in a corner. But I will be brave, and at the risk of offending some friends, here is my list to go into camp in the UK of the Aussie based horses. In no particular order:
Tim Boland - GV Billy Elliot
Shane Rose - Taurus
Megan Jones - KP Allofasudden
Stuart Tinney - Pluto Mio
Final spot is a toss of the coin
Christine Bates - Adelaide Hill or Emma Mason - F1 Pharinelli both are impressive. Maybe we need to squeeze six on the plane rather than five.
What I am excited about is the prospects for Aussie Eventing today and in the future.
Piggy French & DHI Topper W at Blenheim 2011, image by ESJ Photo
The Brits, or as us Aussies prefer to call them, the Poms. As home team one would assume that they perhaps have a home team advantage. But given that Greenwich park is a new venue much of the home team advantage is eroded. Even the lack of travel can't be claimed as an advantage. For instance the entire Kiwi team is UK based, a good portion of the Aussie team is likewise. The French, Germans, Italians, Irish and many more are just a short boat ride from London.
Certainly there will be a weight of British crowds supporting the team, the bulk of the 50,000 (has it changed again??) spectators on XC day will be supporting the Brits but no doubt there will be large and vocal teams of supporters from all other nations.
So when it comes to picking a British team I had trouble finding a list to start with, I have found the Team GBR [http://www.equestrianteamgbr.co.uk/performance-squads/] - Eventing list but surprisingly I cannot find an actual list on the British Eventing website. Anyhow we move on and start at the top of the list. I also know I have procrastinated for MANY weeks on writing this one.
The challenge for the entire British based Eventing community is getting the competition experience they need before the Games in July. With Badminton cancelled there was a mad scramble to re-schedule horses to other suitable events. The problem is that the poor weather has continued and events continue to be cancelled. How many events that end up cancelled will be anyone's guess.
First up is Kristina (Tina) Cook, who was a member of both the Beijing bronze medal winning team and more recently the WEG Kentucky gold medal team. Tina's number one ride and partner for both championship successes, Minors Frolic, is certainly a possibility to represent Britain for a third straight championship event. There have been a couple of incompletes recently that present a warning sign for selectors, however the most recent results seem to point to this pair being back on track.
Tina & Miners Frolic are running in the CIC3* class this weekend against some class competition, so this I guess is their final chance to prove themselves worthy of selection. Tina has two other horses entered at Bramham in the massive (over 90 entries) CCI3* class both Regal Red and De Novo News. However going on form I do not believe either horse is a serious contender for the British team.
Next on the list is Ruth Edge and who currently has three horses that may be possibilities on the surface at least. Ruth's most experienced horse is Two Thyme, unfortunately their recent history is somewhat checkered with three retirements at major competitions including last weekend's Tattersalls in the CIC3* class. I don't believe this pair are serious contenders for the team. Ruth's other two mounts Rogersdale and Nick of Thyme, may be possibilities in the future but not London.
William Fox-Pitt & Bay My Hero at Blenheim 2011, image by ESJ Photo
Next on the list is William Fox-Pitt, the question for selectors is not whether to include William but which mount of his is fittest and best suited to the Greenwich track. William has huge depth of horsepower below him, by my count there are nine horses in the Fox-Pitt stables that are theoretically qualified to compete at the Games. While some are LOOOOOONG shots there are at least three possible mounts for William at the Games.
First up is Parklane Hawk which is an obvious choice after winning back to back four stars Burghley and then Lexington (Rolex), this horse is amazing and could be a easy pick for the selectors.
Let me divert for a moment, given the cancellation of this year's Badminton, William has two very interesting possibilities in the next 12 months. Firstly and uniquely he has the chance of winning the Rolex Grand Slam on one horse, highly unlikely normally given the timing of the events. Secondly he has the chance to theoretically be competing for two chances at the Grand Slam at the same time.
He already has Burghley & Rolex in the bag and they have clarified that if he wins Badminton next year he will win the Grand Slam. But what happens if he wins Burghley later this year and Rolex again in 2013. Is he up for two lots of prize money if he wins at Badminton in 2013? Five straight Grand Slams would certainly be worthy of at least double the prize money???
Back to the Games, Oslo is also in contention on the team with four wins in recent starts, he would be my number two choice for William. [UPDATE: UK Eventing Blog just tweeted out this morning that Olso is injured and will NOT be in contention for the Olympics.] Macchiato who seems to have been around for a million years was due to compete this weekend at Bramham, this 14 year old Argentinian/Aussie gelding has eight 4* starts to its name and would have been a great back up horse for Team Fox-Pitt, however earlier this week Team Fox-Pitt announced the retirement of the horse. Lionheart remains in the frame as he and Oslo compete in the CIC3* class this weekend at Brahman. Neuf Des Coeurs is also in the mix with an entry into the CCI4* at Luhmuhlen next week.
Piggy French has two top class rides in the running for the British team, I think it will be very hard for the selectors to leave Piggy off the team the simple question is which mount. Jakata is in fine form and cleaned up at Houghton a couple of weeks ago finishing on their dressage score of 38.1 this pair have a tonne of experience and while it hasn't always been rosy, the last couple of years have been stellar.
Piggy's second ride is DHI Topper W which I was lucky enough watch them win at Blenheim last year, back then they looked unstoppable. The pair picked up a second place at Burnham Market in April with six top three finishes in seven starts must also be on the radar of the British selectors.
The next name on the list is Pippa Funnell, unfortunately Pippa ruled herself out of contention in April when her two top mounts Redesigned and Billy Shannon sustained injuries. Pippa is a tough competitor and while this is a setback I expect to see her again in contention for Normandy in two years.
Mary King & Kings Temptress Burghley 2011, image by Peter Nixon/FEI
Mary King has three mounts in the mix although I think only Imperial Cavalier and Kings Temptress are really in contention. My pick would be Kings Temptress, this 12 year old mare has been on a roll at four star level in the last two years including a win at Rolex last year and then coming third to Fox-Pitt and Nicholson at Burghley last year.
Polly Stockton poses an interesting question for the Brits, she has great experience, has been part of the team before and while on the surface appears to have horsepower, her results are not what you might hope. Her top mount Westwood Mariner finished in a fantastic 3rd place at Tatts last weekend and you would think would have them in the clear running.
Personally while I hope that this Tatts result is a sign of things to come from this 11 year old gelding I don't think their past results warrant selection on the team. As for Regulus Polly's other mount, I think that he at 16 is past his best. Unfortunately I don't believe we will see Polly on the 2012 London team.
The next name on the list is Oliver Townend, he has three mounts that are qualified to compete at London, his first is a young and very green horse Arctic Mouse who no selector would risk their reputation on; this horse has a future but just doesn't have the miles to run at an Olympics. Next up is Armada, Andrew Nicholson's former mount. Oliver took over the ride earlier this year, strangely after the cut off for the change of Nationality of ownership of horses so no matter what his performance he CANNOT compete under the Union Jack.
Finally is an interesting mount ODT Sonas Rovatio, Oliver has him entered next weekend at Luhmuhlen in what I assume is a last ditch effort to gain selection. This horse has four star experience running 6th at Rolex last year. It came 8th in the CIC3* class last weekend at Tatts. Oliver might pull this one out of the bag, we will see after Luhmuhlen.
Lucy Wiegersma has two horses in the running the first is Simon Porloe a 12 year old gelding who has been in great form for the last 12 months, the problem I see is previous to that this horse had a real consistency problem only finishing half of the time. To me this horse is a big risk for an Olympic competition.
Lucy's second horse Granntevka Prince also presents a conundrum for selectors. They recently made the trip to Rolex in April and unfortunately Lucy had a fall on XC, so they came home incomplete. Prior to that they had been a pretty consistent team with the occasional blemish on XC but lots of top ten finishes. Lucy will be out on Granntevka this weekend at Bramham CCI3* (Simon Porloe is in the CIC3* class too) to prove to selectors that Kentucky was an unlucky blip and that they are worthy of selection.
Nicola Wilson is the final name on the official list, Nicola theoretically has three horses in the running including her long time partner Opposition Buzz. This pair will be running in the CIC3* class where many Olympic hopefuls from around the world will be competing. A good performance will once again see this pair representing their Nation.
There are two more names not on the list I would like to examine, the first is Zara Phillips, we all know Zara and being a former world champ we should at least look at where she is in the running. The second is Laura Collett, a young rider with a profile that is building. So firstly Zara, what rides does she have at the moment?
Zara really only has one prospect for London the Irish Sport Horse High Kingdom which she finished in 10th place on at Burghley last year. Zara is rolling the dice with High Kingdom at Luhmuhlen next weekend. They have had plenty of top 10 finishes as a pair and apart from a couple of earlier incompletes they look great. I guess the question to be answered next weekend is simply are they a London or a Normandy pair?
Finally, Laura Collett has been creating a buzz lately, not the least for the shoot she did with her pony painted from head to toe in the Union Jack. Laura and Rayef have had a roller coaster ride in the last two years with peaks including a lot of top ten finishes, including a notable 8th at Badminton (Laura was 21 then) and lows which include most recently an "E" at Saumur just a couple of weeks ago. They are competing at Bramham this weekend in the CIC3*.
Laura's other mount Noble Bestman is much more consistent than Rayef, however despite the fact the horse completed Burghley last year I don't think it yet has the miles for an Olympic horse. I believe that Laura will miss out on competing at her home Olympics but I see a bright future for the 22 year old.
Anyhow, now that I have finally put pen to paper, things will change, I always make mistakes, which will be pointed out in the comments below and of course many people just say I am plain crazy. Here is my British Olympic Eventing Team.
William Fox-Pitt - Parklane Hawk
Piggy French - DHI Topper W
Mary King - Kings Temptress
Nicola Wilson - Opposition Buzz
Tina Cook - Miners Frolic
If anything goes wrong with any of these pairs, then the UK has three top class alternatives in Lucy Wiegersma - Granntevka Prince, Zara Phillips - High Kingdom and Oliver Townend - ODT Sonas Rovatio.
We will see. Thank you for bearing with me throughout this series, I didn't expect it to be so epic. Only a few short weeks til the games and we will see how accurate I was, I am hoping better than 50% for all teams.
Megan Jones & Kirby Park Allofasudden, image by ESJ Photo
Well, this year's Eventing Equestriad has been run and won. The top four pairs had less than a rail between them so the show jumping was tense, when the fourth placed Christine Bates with Adelaide Hill entered the arena only one combination had gone clear, Alex Townsend with Parodie.
Christine Bates and Adelaide Hill, finished in fourth place, image by ESJ Photo
Unfortunately Christine dropped a rail which allowed them the hold at least fourth place, then John Twomey (the smiling assassin) entered the ring on Wade Equine Highly Recommended. This pair looked faultless on the cross country only two hours earlier and completed a picture perfect fast round, 14 seconds under time on a course where there were plenty of time faults. John was just 0.1 behind the second placed Megan Jones on Kirby Park Allofasudden and 2.7 behind the leader Shane Rose on Statford Neo.
Tallara Barwick and Chief Justice, image by ESJ Photo
Megan Jones is a jumping machine and also provided a perfect round, never even looking like they were going to drop a rail. Finally the leader, and one of the key organisers behind the event, Shane Rose entered the ring on Statford Neo. Neo is still quite green and throughout the first part of the course Shane rode him on beautiful lines and they looked so clean.
Shane Rose and Statford Neo, image by ESJ Photo
Unfortunately Neo's inexperience showed in the treble and they picked up a single rail dropping them to third place. Shane was very pleased with Neo's performance and is looking forward to a bright future on this young horse.
Tim Boland & GV Billy Elliot, overnight leaders but unfortunately a stop on XC, image by ESJ Photo
So the winner was Megan Jones and Kirby Park Allofasudden who added just 3.2 time to their dressage score. John Twomey and Wade Equine Highly Recommended finished just 0.1 behind and were the only combination to finish on their dressage score with the only cross country round under time.
John Twomey (the smiling assassin) & Wade Equine Highly Recommended, image by ESJ Photo
It was a fabulous event, 630 entries were received and about 600 horses took part, for such a big event (especially by Aussie standards) it ran like clockwork. I based myself out of the scorers office and I commented at the end of the weekend it was the most stress free scoring room I had ever experienced. Congratulation to all of the combinations who competed, to all of the massive number of volunteers that helped make the event possible you were awesome, and to the committee, Eventing Equestriad is a BRILLIANT event.
Nat Blundell & Algebra, climbing the long hill, image by ESJ Photo
There are a number of implications to come out of this weekend and the concurrent event being held at Houghton in the UK. I will be back in a couple of days to reflect on what this may mean for the Aussie Olympic team. I will leave with only one comment, I think that Megan and Allofasudden will be on the plane.
As day one of the Eventing Equestriad at Camden's Bicentennial Park draws to a close, Tim Boland and GV Billy Elliot lead the field. Tim and Billy are a full 4.8 penalties in front of the second placed Lauren Balcomb who led for much of the morning. Behind Lauren are most of Tim's rival competitors for a coveted spot on the Aussie Olympic team.
The top ten line up as it stands after dressage is
Tim Boland - GV Billy Elliot 41.6 #
Lauren Balcomb - Kootamootoo 46.5
Christine Bates - Adelaide Hill 48.6 #
Shane Rose - Statford Neo 49.5 *
Christine Bates - Delago 50.1 *
Megan Jones - Kirby Park Allofasudden 50.1 #
Stuart Tinney - Panamera 51.0 #
Shane Rose - APH Moritz 51.3 *
Craig Barrett - Wendela Jamie 51.6 #
John Twomey - Wade Equine Highly Recommended 53.4
All combinations with a # are directly in the running for selection for London, in fact the only other pair competing this weekend also in the running is Nat Blundell & Algebra who lie in 13th place on 58.2. The riders with * are in the hunt for selection on different mounts. Shows how competitive the Aussie selection process is.
However, I have been assured that Aussie team selection is based purely on CCI results, not CICs as this event is, that said three of the four members of the Aussie selection team are on hand this weekend as is the National Vet. So you tell me that the riders aren't out there trying to influence selectors.
Lauren Balcomb & Kootamootoo, image by ESJ Photo
Given the obvious class of the field it was great to see young rider Lauren Balcomb come in so strong and pull such a nice test. We had 31 starters in the CIC3* class today with a few ruled out in the last couple of days including one of my favourites Emma Scott and Mustang. I haven't caught up with Emma today, hopefully tomorrow to see why they are MIA.
In all nearly 600 dressage tests were performed in 7 height classes, from the babies at 2 feet to the three star. About half of the horses jumped today also with 200 odd also doing XC. We still have a lot of action tomorrow with a full day of XC and jumping. Tomorrow I won't be chained to a dressage ring so hopefully there will be much more variety in my shots.
Shane Rose and the expressive APH Moritz, image by ESJ Photo
Full results are here, its 9pm, I have been up since 3:40am so I think it is time for bed.
Stuart Tinney & Panamera Winners Adelaide CCI4* 2011 | Image by ESJ Photo
This weekend sees one of Australia's best events happening the Eventing Equestriad at Camden. This relatively new event (only a few years old) has quickly become a favourite for Eventers from around Australia. There are 600 combinations entered which is huge (by comparison a big event normally will get say 450 combos). Not only are there a huge number of entries but the Olympic selection process in Australia is getting hot.
By my count there are seven riders competing who are still in the hunt for an Olympic birth, of those only one, Shane Rose is resting his number one horse Taurus. Shane will be riding APH Moritz and Statford Neo. Taurus is having a break but I expect to see him along with almost all the other combinations at Melbourne in two weeks for the final selection run.
We will see the return of Panamera, the winner of last year's CCI4* class at Adelaide. Panamera's four star win in November almost guaranteed her and Stuart Tinney a spot on the plane and this weekend will be interesting as the other pairs line up to prove they are just as good, if not better.
Emma Scott & Mustang at Sydney | Image by ESJ Photo
Still in the selection hunt are:
Stuart Tinney - Panamera (Stuart will also be running Orchard Hill)
Christine Bates - Adelaide Hill (Christine will also be running Delago)
Megan Jones - Kirby Park Allofasudden
Natalie Blundell - Algebra
Emma Scott - Mustang
Tim Boland - GV Billy Elliot
Shane Rose - Statford Neo & APH Moritz
Craig Barrett - Wendela Jamie
There are two names not on the list they are Emma Mason & F1 Pharinelli, and Sonja Johnson & Parkiarrup Illicit Liaison. I am not sure why Emma is resting F1. I am not surprised Sonja didn't make the trek over from Western Australia, given the distance and the fact that Sonja runs the sheep station back home with her family. I am sure Sonja will be in Melbourne. While this weekend is a CIC and NOT officially a selection event as you can see most are the runners are there and three of the four selectors will be present.
The selection for the Aussie team is still WIDE OPEN, especially given the results in Saumur last weekend, Chris "Burto" Burton finishing 1st & 2nd, Bill Levitt 5th & 6th and Paul "Tappers" Tapner coming in 13th & 14th will give the selectors some real headaches, as will the injuries sustained by Clayton Fredericks in his fall. The latest word on Clayton from Team Fredericks is that they hope he will be home by the weekend. Lets hope Clayton makes a speedy recovery.
Nat Blundell & Algebra at Sydney | Image by ESJ Photo
Well it will be a VERY exciting weekend with competition from CIC3* to EVA 60cm (2 feet), 600 pairs, family activities including face painting & kids rides, a restaurant-quality meal in the VIP tent and so much more. I will be there all weekend and will provide a daily wrap.
There was tension in the air as Shane Rose and Taurus entered the arena with two rails up their sleeve. This pair have had a rocky history with show jumping, after a round in Adelaide which Shane would rather forget after dropping four rails going from first to fifth. Today, he was out for redemption and a spot on the Aussie squad heading to London.
After dropping a rail early in the course the tension was on and after dropping the third to last they had no more room for error, Shane focused and jumped the last two clean to keep the lead. Earlier Emma Scott had dropped a rail to slip into third spot from third, while Megan Jones also dropped a rail moving into fifth spot on the VERY crowded leader board.
GV Billy Elliot
Tim Boland and GV Billy Elliot had a clear round bolting from sixth place second proving once again that a clear show jumping round can mean all the difference. Rounding out the top five is Emma Mason and F1 Pharinelli who also jumped clear to stay in and forth place.
The top five finished like this:
Shane Rose - Taurus 48.6
Tim Boland - GV Billy Elliot 50.2
Emma Scott - Mustang 50.4
Emma Mason - F1 Pharinelli 50.4
Megan Jones - Kirby Park Allofasudden 50.6
Final Results are here. I don't really think this weekend has done anything to help the Aussie selectors as there are still many unanswered questions from most of the combinations in contention. Melbourne is on the first weekend of June and may help firm up the team. In the meantime selection is anyone's guess.
Shane Rose and Taurus, overnight leaders on 40.6, photo by John Lechner
Another week and another event with Shane Rose in the lead. There was little doubt in the minds of anyone watching that Shane would go to the lead. His test was more polished than the rest of the field. Shane and Taurus are on a mission, that mission is simple, make it on the plane to London in July.
Shane and the rest of the Olympic hopefuls here this weekend all know that when this event is over if they are in the top five, they have a chance of being on the plane, almost none without it. It would be a brave group of selectors that would ignore the winner this weekend.
Tim Boland and GV Billy Elliot in second place after dressage, photo by John Lechner
Hot on Shane's heals is Tim Boland and GV Billy Elliot with a nice test of 43.8, which I know was not their best, this pair is capable of a sub forty result, tension and the prospect of Olympic selection ensured that a few combinations did not achieve their best today.
Megan Jones and Kirby Park Allofasudden looked good and will be very competitive tomorrow with 44.2. Megan is a tough competitor and I know that she will be picking apart her test tonight, making notes to ensure next time is better.
Megan Jones and Kirby Park Allofasudden, in 3rd place on 44.2, photo by John Lechner
The most inspiring performance in the dressage today goes to Emma Scott and Mustang, they pulled off a brilliant test to be hot on the heals of Megan and the top three with 46.2. Emma was absolutely stoked with Mustang and will be out to prove that she also deserves a spot on the plane to London. Emma and Mustang are rising stars with plenty of potential for the Aussie team both for London and Normandy in 2014.
A very happy Emma Scott and Mustang in 4th place after Dressage on 46.4, photo by John Lechner
After walking Mike Etherington-Smith's new cross country course this morning I can tell you categorically that the leader board will be different tomorrow afternoon. The course is a tough 5815m with a lot of terrain and new factor for Sydney , lots of narrow lanes, the course holds no tricks but provides no free rides, especially for the horse that decides to be dishonest.
That's it for tonight, I will be back tomorrow bringing you more action live from Sydney, if you want regular updates, follow me on Twitter @johnvacy. Full results here.
Pascal Leroy and Minos de Petra at Badminton 2011, photo by Samantha Clark
OK, here it goes, the French, the Frogs. I thought picking the Aussies was tough, this French list has more names that are unpronounceable for this Aussie bloke, a VERY long B list and was a tough pick, basically because very few combinations picked themselves. Overall, I had to comb and re-comb the lists to finalise my team.
So we start with the Elite list which interestingly lists only rider names but not horses. So combinations need to be selected. The first rider on the elite list is Stanislas De Zuchowicz who has the mount Quirinal De La Bastide ENE HN, still with me? This pair have run at Rolex twice as well as WEG, overall good dressage and generally nice XC, but they do pull 1-2 rails regularly. Surprisingly they have never run a four star on their side of the Atlantic. At this stage, they make the team.
Pascal Leroy is the next rider on the list and he has two horses at four star level, Glenburny Du Leou and Minos De Petra, both horses have competed at four star level although with mixed results. Glenburny has two incomplete XCs from the last four starts at the 4* level, the other two results were a respectable 24th at Pau and 11th at Luhmuhlen. Both results included at least one rail, this 18 year old horse is probably not worth the risk around Greenwich Park. Minos retired on XC at Pau late last year but earlier in the year managed a respectable 22nd at Badminton with 2 rails. At WEG in Kentucky this horse managed to only add 3 jumping time penalties to its dressage score. To me this is the pick of Pascal's horses although I do have concerns, its results are scattered with 2-4 rails in the jumping and they were eliminated at the Euro Champs last year at Luhmuhlen. Lets say at this stage that Pascal and Minos are a maybe, they are entered and accepted at Badminton.
Next on the Elite list is Donatien Schauly and his one horse, Ocarina Du Chanois at the CCI3* level. This 10 year old bay gelding is qualified to run 4* but is yet to be tested. However its results to date are impressive, top 10 finishes in all FEI class starts, usually on its dressage score in the low 40s. At the Euro Champs last year in Luhmuhlen they finished 6th on their dressage score and in 2010 they won Boekelo with their dressage score plus 4 XC time faults. This pair are impressive and despite being untested at four star level I would pick them.
Nicolas Touzaint is no stranger to the elite level of competition and he has three potential mounts for London; to be honest, Nicolas is a class rider and has been the backbone of the French team for a number of years now. Hidalgo De L'ile is a 17 year old bay gelding who is at the end of its career. I get the feeling Nicholas is keeping this horse ticking over, it was 5th at Pau last year, was 4th at Rolex in 2009 and won Badminton in 2008. This horse is only doing one big event each year. Nicholas is waiting for one of his youngsters to step up to the plate in my opinion. I would take Hidalgo to London, but only if either of the other two aren't up to it yet.
Pepsy Du Thil is a 9 year old Anglo Arab grey gelding, this horse is untested at CCI3* let alone 4*, we will see this horse at Normandy in two years time. That leaves Neptune De Sartene, an 11 year old bay gelding that is qualified but yet to be tested at four star. This horse is capable of low 40s dressage, clean XC and jumping. It finished 8th at last years Euro Champs. Honestly, I think we will see this horse run in the spring, most likely at Badminton (NOTE, he is not on the accepted or wait list for Badminton), if he performs as he should then Neptune will be Nicolas' mount for London, if not, the old man of the herd Hidalgo will have his swan song at London.
That finishes out the Elite list for the French, next we move on to the Seniors list of which there are 15 riders named, again with no mounts. While I have examined all 15 as part of my research I will not go through them individually but go through the highlights, the full list is here on page 14.
The first combination on the Seniors list that are a maybe in my opinion are Didier Dhennin and Opi De Saint Leo. This 10 year old chestnut gelding looks quite promising but only has one CCI3* under its belt so far a 13th at Boekelo adding just 8 time to their dressage score. This pair will need to pull off a major spring result to be considered for London. They are not entered for Badminton, although they probably wouldn't be considered given their lack of experience. Perhaps Luhmuhlen in June, we will have to see.
A pair that does have four star experience finishing 20th at last year's Pau is Karin Florent and Chicago Van't Zonneveld, that said their dressage isn't so hot but they have finished top 20 in all 3 & 4 star starts so they need to be on the list of maybes.
Edouard Legendre and Lanacan are interesting, as a pair they have completed three 4* events, Pau 16th & 34th and Luhmuhlen 25th, but they almost always pick up significant time penalties or a bunch of rails, at Pau last year they had six. They are not on the entry list for Badminton and I don't believe we will see them on the French team this year.
Denis Mesples and the promising young horse Oregon De La Vigne, this pair have shown some potential although it really hasn't shown up in placings as yet. Their dressage still needs work but they are capable of a clear if slow XC round. They do have an issue in the jumping with one rail almost par for the course and on a bad day, four rails. They are on the wait list for Badminton but number 26 at this stage so it is unlikely they will get a run. In all this pair need more experience and to be more consistent before representing their nation.
Astier Nicholas (yes Astier is his first name, I checked) and the unpronounceable Jhakti Du Jaulie have stepped up to four star last year. Prior to their four star move they were regular (almost always) finishers in the top 10. They tackled both Pau and Luhmuhlen last year and having a stop on XC at each. This pair and this young rider Astier are ones to watch, Astier is only 22 so has a long way to go in the sport and if he makes it to Badminton (they are no 11 on the wait list so it is possible) they may assert themselves for the French team. I am one for ensuring that at least one up and coming star is blooded on a major games team each time. Astier is my pick of the younger French riders.
Eddie Sans is a familier name to many eventers as he has competed at Burghley the last two years. He has two 4* horses, Mayland Du Brunel and Kramique. Both horses are veterans at four star level with Mayland having had five 4* starts despite being only 12. Kramique on the other hand had two 4* starts last year and neither was particularly spectacular with final scores well over 100 penalties. Mayland had a bad season at the 4* level last year with an incomplete at Burghley and then 124.2 at Pau just five weeks later. Mayland is wait listed for Badminton but in no 22 spot, I doubt they will make the cut. This pair have enough experience but I don't believe have the results to warrant selection for the French team.
OK we are almost there, I told you it was a VERY long B list, two more riders to go.
Jean Teulere and Matelot Du Grand Val at Badminton 2011, photo by and with enormous thanks to Samantha Clark.
Jean Teulere and Matelot Du Grand Val, this 12 year old gelding now has three 4* results under his belt and is entered and accepted for Badminton. While their results haven't been perfect a 5th at Pau in 2010 and 14th last year are promising. This pair will be aiming to improve on last year's 37th at Badminton when they line up in a few weeks. If only they can remove their perpetual two rails in the jumping and their results will be really competitive. I am putting this pair on my team.
Finally we have Eric Vigeanel who has two 4* horses Maranello and Kalin De Burgo, to be honest both horses are risky options for any national team, they have far to many "E"s in their results to be considered in my opinion.
So we have got to the end of the list, who is the team? To be honest I am not sure, lets run through them.
Stanislas De Zuchowicz - Quirinal De La Bastide ENE HN
Donatien Schauly - Ocarina Du Chanois
Pascal Leroy - Minos De Petra
Nicolas Touzaint - Neptune De Sartene or Hildago
Karin Florent and Chicago Van't Zonneveld
Astier Nicholas - Jhakti Du Jaulie
Jean Teulere - Matelot Du Grand Val
These are my top seven, if all are fit and able to compete, I would put Karin Florent and Astier Nicholas as my reserves, it is a toss of the coin as to which you would take if one of the other five dropped out. Both have assets and reasons to be on the team.