Luhmühlen 2019: Your Entries Encyclopedia

Jonelle Price and Faerie Dianimo win Luhmühlen’s CCI5*-L in 2018. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Welcome to Luhmühlen, where Chinch is already three steins in and busy terrorising the locals with a bit of this:

He can’t be tamed, unfortunately, but while he’s distracted saving the planet, we’ve been busy analysing the field of entries.

You might be surprised to see just two German entries in what is Germany’s showpiece three-day event – but there’s a good reason for that. Luhmühlen also host a CCI4*-S which, incidentally, is the German National Championships – so most of the country’s heavy hitters will be focusing on that instead, particularly as we look ahead to this summer’s European Championships. But the Germans entered in this class certainly shouldn’t be underestimated.

While Great Britain holds the monopoly over the 35-strong entry list, with 17 entries, we’re looking beyond this obvious superpower to find our potential winner. Japan has three strong entries, and Kazuma Tomato is enjoying a hot streak at the moment. He’s joined by Yoshi Oiwa, who rides his Bramham winner Calle 44, and Kenki Sato, the thrill-seeking monk, who we’re delighted to see gracing the world stage once again. #JapanWatch is one of our favourite games, and it’s going to give us some real fun this week. New Zealand, too, is a strong shout – while there might only be one horse and rider combination flying the flag for the Kiwis, it’s one we wouldn’t want to look too far past. Tim Price comes forward with the exceptional Ascona M, hoping to keep the Luhmühlen trophy in the family for another year.

Having said all that, though, the British are going to put up a serious fight: Alex Bragg and Zagreb are one of the classiest combinations in this field, while Tom McEwen has made a serious competitor out of Figaro Van Het Broekxhof this year. Flora Harris and Bayano are well overdue a big result, while Sarah Bullimore’s Reve du Rouet is one of the best horses in the game, when he decides to be. There’s a real dark horse contender for the win in the mix, too, and this one will be flying the stars and stripes – Frankie Thierot-Stutes’ Chatwin keeps getting better and better, and after missing out on a planned Badminton run, both horse and rider will be fighting fit and ready to tackle this week’s challenge.

Basically? The door is wide open and, as is usually the case in top-level eventing, absolutely anything could happen. Check out the entries and then let us know who you think takes the top spot!

AUSTRALIA

Sam Griffiths and Paulank Brockagh. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Sam Griffiths and Paulank Brockagh

Sixteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Touchdown x Calendar Girl). Owned by Dinah Posford, Jules Carter, and the rider.

2014 Badminton winner Brocks was initially entered for a return visit to the site of her biggest triumph, but Sam and his team opted to give her a longer prep run – and a slightly less taxing five-star – with the long-term view of keeping her at her best for next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

In 2014, Brocks triumphed at Badminton despite persistent rain and a slightly off-the-pace dressage performance – she moved up an impressive 24 places to take the win, proving just how tough this mare is. She’s a supremely un-girly mare who thrives on her work. She could be forgiven for slowing down a bit since that momentous victory, but she hasn’t, really – she was ninth at Burghley in 2015, fourth individually at Rio, where she was part of the bronze medal-winning Australian team, and eighth at Pau in 2017 after Sam had to sit much of the season out with a broken neck. That year she ran around Badminton again, but clocked up a slightly contentious 50 penalties for missing a flag at the Shogun Hollow. Last year she finished 15th there after a phenomenal dressage of 24.4 – considerably lower than their projected score – was marred somewhat by three rails on the final day. She had much of the rest of the season off and has come out this year looking very well indeed. Have we seen the best of Brocks? Somehow, we doubt it – and it’ll be exciting to see what this mega mare makes of her first trip to Germany’s foremost event.

Warren Lamperd and Silvia. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Warren Lamperd and Silvia

Eighteen-year-old Holsteiner mare (Lancer II x Moka). Owned by the rider.

The horse that coined the phrase ‘doing a Silvia’ – that is, um, banking a fence and making it look like that’s how it ought to be done – is back. Bossy, as she’s known at home, is well known for being game and gutsy, and she proved her adaptability in 2017 at Burghley when she made light, if creative, work of the Dairy Mound combination. They finished in 31st place after adding rather too many time penalties and poles to threaten the top 20, but Bossy is a classic cross-country competitor.

With street smarts come personality quirks, and Bossy displays plenty of those at home – impossible to contain in a paddock, she’s allowed to roam free-range around Warren’s Berkshire base and choose the best grazing spots. An unbroken broodmare until the age of six, she spent more of her formative training putting Warren on the floor than learning to contain her enthusiasm, but his patience has paid off, and he’ll leave the start box on a partner he can trust.

Silvia reroutes to Luhmühlen after an unspent Badminton entry, which saw her just miss out on a spot off the waitlist, but she should make easy work of her debut at Luhmühlen. The pair will post a score that hovers around the low-to-mid 30s, and although they’ll rack up time penalties, they’ll likely go clear – their blip at Badminton last year, in which they both took a tumble, was their first international cross-country jumping penalty since 2014. The showjumping will prove costly, as it tends to with this pair – they’ve never gone clear in their 19 international runs.

BELGIUM

Christian Chabot and Barlison

Thirteen-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Radisson x Liona). Owned by the rider.

Barlison made his five-star debut at Pau last season, marking a long-awaited return to the top level for Christian, too. They finished nineteenth, jumping clear on Saturday to add 16.4 time penalties to their 35.7 dressage and tipping three rails on the final day. But all things considered, it was a great week for them – their record up until that point, after all, was seriously chequered. Their 2018 season started well with 8th place at Vairano CCI4*-L, but the horse was eliminated in his next three internationals, which were at CCI3*-S and CC2*-S. Then he ran a CCI2*-L, finishing second, as his final run before the big one.

This season hasn’t started dissimilarly. The pair went to Burnham Market to contest the CCI4*-S, finishing 55th on nearly identical three-phase performances to their Pau run, and then they went to Marbach CCI4*-S, where they were eliminated on cross-country. Barlison is a sweet horse; he looks honest, and genuine, and willing to go the extra (figurative) mile, but there’s a niggle somewhere in the system that looks in need of attention. Another solid performance at Luhmühlen could go a long way towards cementing the partnership.

DENMARK

Peter Flarup and Frankie. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Peter Flarup and Frankie

Twelve-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding (Federico XX x Stald Mejses). Owned by the rider.

This will be Frankie’s third five-star start, and in his previous two, he’s been impressive: he made his debut here in 2017, jumping clear to finish 27th. Then he went to Pau the following year, and showed us what he’s truly made of. The pair’s 29.5 in the first phase was good enough to see them round out the top ten, and then they added just 5.2 time penalties across the country. On the final day, though, they showed the biggest improvement, whittling the four rails they’d knocked at Luhmühlen down to one over a big, tough course. Ultimately, the Copenhagen-based duo finished fourth, and although we haven’t seen them at an international since then, it would be a fool’s game to count them out at this stage. If they can clear their biggest hurdle – the final ones – then they could be a dark horse contender for the win.

FINLAND

Elmo Jankari and Soraya 243

Eleven-year-old Oldenburg mare (Seigneur d’Alleray XX x Caipirinhia). Owned by Nina Sibelius & Sauli Jankari.

Eternally youthful-looking Elmo is Finnish eventing’s darling (and, okay, he’s only 27, but we guarantee he’ll look just as fresh-faced at 46 — whether he’s stashing a rapidly aging portrait in his attic remains to be seen, but rest assured that EN is on the case). He’s amassed plenty of experience dealing with the pressures of life at the top in his career — after all, he’s already logged a WEG place in 2014, a European championships finish in 2015, and he rode at Rio, too, finishing 31st individually with Duchess Desiree.

Soraya is a new old ride for Elmo — he produced her to CCI4*-L in 2016 before passing the reins to Spain’s Esteban Benitez Valle for the 2017 season. Elmo took her back last year, and they’ve had mixed results in the four internationals they’ve contested since their reunion. They got off to a great start in the CCI3*-S at Chaumont en Vexin, where they finished eighth, but they then retired on course at CCI4*-L and -S competitions at Strzegom. Finally, they completed Baborowko’s CCI4*-S, finishing eleventh. They moved up to five-star at Pau, picking up twenty penalties, 20.8 time, and adding four rails on Sunday, but a clear round inside the time at last month’s Sopot CCI4*-L could be the harbinger of good form to come. Both horse and rider are still young and gaining valuable experience at this level – they will start clocking up clears at five-star, and this course should be just forgiving enough to allow their streak to begin this week.

FRANCE

Marie-Caroline Barbier and Picasso d’Oreal

Sixteen-year-old Selle Français gelding (Fadgio du Hil x Galice). Owned by the rider.

Marie and Picasso were fifth in Bramham’s beefy Under-25 CCI4*-L last year, though their best result at the level came in the same class the year prior, when they finished fourth. They made their move-up to five-star at Pau last year, and although it was a bumper year for French debutantes, they didn’t enjoy quite the same fairytale ending that many of their compatriots did – instead, Marie opted to retire after picking up a 20 on course.

This will be their first international run since Pau, interestingly, although Marie, who rides with the Cadre Noir at the National School of Equitation in Saumur, will have been working hard behind the scenes to turn their experience last season into a useful lesson. Expect, on recent form, a first-phase score between 31 and 33 and, if they go clear, a reasonably quick round – their style is typical French and forward-thinking. That clear will be the main goal, and is possibly more likely than a clear on Sunday, when they’ll almost certainly tip a rail.

Clara Loiseau and Ultramaille

Eleven-year-old Selle Français mare (Maille Pistol x La Lorelai). Owned by Isabelle Peters.

Clara made her five-star debut at Pau last year aboard the exciting Thoroughbred Wont Wait, and in doing so, strode straight into the international spotlight. They added just a solitary rail to their 31.7 dressage, finishing third and demonstrating the serious strength in depth that the French federation boasts.

Their Badminton didn’t go quite as spectacularly, although they were impressive across the country – unfortunately, a poor first-phase score precluded a higher placing. But this is a different horse, and that Badminton experience will have been enormously educational for Clara, who is now inarguably an established five-star rider. This gives her the tools in the box to give Ultramaille the debut run she needs.

Ultramaille produced a very good 30.9 in the CCI4*-L at Boekelo last season, but her scores tend to sit more in the mid-to-high 30s bracket. The jumping phases are still a reasonably green work in progress, too – although they’ve jumped clear around some tough four-star tracks, they’ve also picked up their share of 20s and horse and rider falls, too. On the final day, they’ll likely tip a couple of rails. The goal here won’t be to polish their performances, though – it’ll be to add some more building blocks onto the young horse’s education.

GERMANY

Andreas Dibowski and FRH Butts Avedon at Burghley. Photo by Nico Morgan Media.

Andreas Dibowski and FRH Butts Avedon

Sixteen-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Heraldik XX x Karina-Andora). Owned by Dr Manfred Giensch and Anne-Katrin Butt.

Dibo and his stalwart Hanoverian have a serious amount of experience, though their five-star form of late has left a bit of a question mark hanging over their prospects. They last completed a competition of this level in 2016 – that was Badminton, at which they finished fifteenth. Since then, they’ve gone to Luhmühlen, where problems in the showjumping phase forced them to retire, and to Burghley last year, where Dibo took a surprise tumble at an innocuous, early fence. They promptly rerouted to Pau, where they retired on course after picking up a 20. All that said, though, this pair are one of the most experienced in the field, with a heaping helping of top-fifteen finishes at five-star, as well as a second-place at Pau (2014) and third place here (2012).

Though registered Hanoverian, Avedon’s breeding boasts a serious blood percentage — he’s sired by Heraldik, who also sired La Biosthetique Sam FBW and Happy Times, among others. This makes him fast and gritty across the country, and ordinarily, he comes into his own over five-star tracks. They’ve had three CCI4*-S runs in preparation this season: they were fourth at both Strzegom and Baborowko, but retired at Marbach. EquiRatings’ Prediction Centre has this duo down as one of the most likely threats for a top placing, but we’re gathering splinters atop the fence. Expect them to either finish in the top ten, or not to complete. Dibo doesn’t tend to waste the horse’s legs after an issue.

A totally irrelevant fun fact: Dibo likes to unwind by indulging in a favorite hobby — he breeds exotic birds. As you do.

Andreas Ostholt and Corvette 31. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Andreas Ostholt and Corvette 31

Eleven-year-old Westphalian mare (Chacco-Blue x Love Me Picture XX). Owned by Rudolf Westmeyer.

Corvette made her five-star debut at Pau last year, and although she picked up a green 20, we’re not holding it against her – she looked an impressive sort for the future, once she has a bit more mileage under her belt. She’s an exciting prospect on paper, for sure — she had her first international win last year in Sopot’s CCI4*-L, and she’s finished in the top ten in 14 of her international runs. Her dressage hovers around the 30 mark, but she delivered a gorgeous 25 at Pau, an appealing hint that she may be one of those clever, theatrical mares who comes into her own in an atmosphere. If she can match that, and then grow from her learning experience at her debut, she’ll be in a competitive position – then, she’s got a roughly 50/50 chance of showjumping clear. This is certainly one to watch for the #MareSquad members among us.

GREAT BRITAIN

Charlotte Bacon and Last Touch

Fourteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Out of Touch x Last Orders). Owned by Lucinda Froggatt. 

Former Pony squad member Charlotte is one of the youngest competitors here, at just 21-years-old. She’s based at home in Oxfordshire, but she’s well-travelled in her quest to learn and improve – she even spent some time working for Dirk Schrade in Germany.

This will be a five-star debut for both horse and rider, and they come into it off the back of some promising form this spring. They were sixteenth in a CCI4*-S at Chatsworth last month, although they ran slowly, and they were eighth in Bramham’s CCIU254*-L last year. They haven’t had a cross-country jumping penalty in an international since 2016, so despite their mid-30s dressage scores, they tend to be able to climb.

Alex Bragg and Zagreb show off what they’re made of at Tattersalls. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Alex Bragg and Zagreb

Fifteen-year-old KWPN gelding (Perion x Renera). Owned by Phillip and Sally Ellicott. 

There are some horses who just set you to dreaming — somehow, they manage to open the floodgates and make their staggering trajectories a communal effort, something owned and coveted as much by the fans as they are by the rider and the team surrounding these brilliant animals. Tall, dark, and impossibly hunky Zagreb is one of those horses. When he made his Badminton debut in 2017 with the enormously likeable family man Alex in the irons, he stopped being “that nice-looking bay in the collecting ring” and immediately became something to take very seriously indeed, despite – or perhaps, even because of – the fact that he didn’t complete. Though the pair were sitting in fifth place after cross-country, Alex opted to withdraw his top horse before showjumping, spotting that he wasn’t feeling 100% himself and that there would be bigger things to come for the Dutch-bred gelding, known at home as Rhett. Yes, like that Rhett. Ugh, delish, right?!

BUT WE DO, RHETT. WEEEE DOOOOO.

Since then, Alex and Rhett have enjoyed top ten finishes at Aachen, Gatcombe, and Blenheim, as well as Pau five-star in 2017, a win in 2018’s Jardy ERM and third at Blenheim CCI4-L, and another clear around Badminton, though 40 time penalties and a knocked pin proved expensive. They took a tumble at Burghley but recovered well to perform beautifully at Blenheim, and Alex, who excelled in mounted games as a child and then started a successful farriery business, is a firm crowd favourite. They started at Badminton this year, but after a below-average dressage score of 31.7, Alex opted not to run, but a hop over to Tattersalls proved fruitful, and they made the CCI4*-S look like a Pony Club competition, finishing third. A six-run average of 30 (and a five-star dressage average of 30.5) should put them in contention in their first trip to Luhmühlen. On the final day, they’re pretty reliable – in two of their three five-star completions, they’ve jumped clear.

Sarah Bullimore and Conpierre

Twelve-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Con Air x Pia). Owned by Brett Bullimore and Christopher and Susan Gillespie. 

Experienced British competitor Sarah brings two horses to Luhmühlen this year, and in terms of experience, they couldn’t be more different. The first of those is Conpierre who, despite his age, hasn’t been run excessively – he’s had sixteen international starts since his debut in 2013. This is partly due to taking some time off: he was off games for much of 2015 and all of 2016, before coming back for busy 2017 and 2018 seasons. There have been some promising results along the way – he was 10th at Houghton CCI4*-S in 2015 on his level debut, and 10th again in Boekelo’s CCI4*-L in 2017. We haven’t seen him in an international yet this year, and although he was clear across the country in all his internationals last year, he’ll likely be piloted with his longer-term production in mind, rather than aimed for a competitive result.

Sarah Bullimore pilots Reve du Rouet through the last water at Pau. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sarah Bullimore and Reve du Rouet

15-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Balou du Rouet x Onassis Queen). Owned by Brett Bullimore and Christopher and Susan Gillespie.

The consummate heartbreaker, Reve du Rouet is the sort of guy you’d match with on Tinder knowing, even through the brain fog of that third glass of Savvy B, that for better or for worse, this one would change your life. For a while, you’d imagine he’s changing it for the better – he’d show up unannounced with your favourite takeaway, looking sickeningly handsome with his crooked grin and slightly-too-long hair. He’d make you feel like he really got you, and he’d know lines of Pablo Neruda poems by heart, which is either lovely or incredibly cringe-worthy, depending on the sort of person you are. Then, you’d be sure he’s changed your life for the worse when, fuelled by his commitmentphobia and one too many whiskeys, he’d call you a very rude name in a bar and end up snogging some girl you’re pretty sure you sat behind in high school Trigonometry. Eventually, he’d grow up and get over himself and settle down with you, but he’d never quite lose the air of sheepishness for having been such a committed knobhead once upon a time. But you’d love him nonetheless.

That’s Reve du Rouet all over – gorgeous, crazy talented, and sometimes, well, just plain crazy, he’s spent years putting us all on the edge of our seats wondering which side of the Jekyll and Hyde coin we’d be given today. His flightiness is down to a genuine fear of crowds, which has seen his tension boil over dramatically in the past but – dare we say it? – seems to be under control these days. This is largely due to some seriously tactical riding – Sarah sneaks most of his schooling into her hacking and fast work, so he never realises the pressure that’s being put on. As a result, he finished his 2018 season with a first-phase PB at Burghley, posting a 27.3. That beat their previous PB of 28.5, delivered the previous season at Pau, and on both occasions, he backed up his impressive starts: he finished second at Pau by just a tenth of a point and was fourth at Burghley. Sarah, who has compared her partnership with ‘Blou’ to that of a battered wife, will be hoping to go one better than that Pau result from 2017, and she certainly could do – she’ll just need to put a disappointing Badminton behind her.

Sam Ecroyd and Wodan III

Sixteen-year-old British-bred Sport Horse (Mr Concorde BJ x Tica). Owned by the rider.

Young Brit Sam heads to Germany propelled by the news that he’s just made it into the top 40 of the FEI World Rankings for the first time. That, and the fact that he hasn’t finished outside of the top fifteen in his last seven internationals with Wodan, who is on flying form after sitting the 2017 season out.

Their most recent result is second place in a CCI4*-S section at Chatsworth, where they jumped two quick, clean rounds to finish on a low-40s score. Their mid-30s mark there won’t be good enough to be at the top after the first phase here, but they can score in the 20s, and have done at lower international levels. But there’s plenty of time for Sam to organise some world-beating dressage performances – this week, it’s all about completing a five-star, which he hasn’t yet added to his resume. With Wodan on his side, he should be well-equipped to do just that.

Flora Harris and Bayano. Photo by Samantha Clark.

Flora Harris and Bayano

Thirteen-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Contendro II x Ramontane). Owned by Rebecca Salt and Caroline Harris.

Flora’s Dutch-bred superstar tackles his fourth five-star this week — he was clear at Luhmühlen in 2017 for 21st place and picked up a twenty at Badminton last spring. Then, he headed to Pau, but it wasn’t a successful week – he and Flora were eliminated after she took a tumble on course. Otherwise, he’s been in the top ten in five of his last eight internationals, just missing out on a win in Belton’s Grantham Cup CCI4*-S this spring because of a hugely contentious flag penalty. The high point of his career came in 2015, when he won Bramham’s CCI4*-L.

Barney is small, compact, catlike, and seriously, seriously gorgeous, with a beautiful jump. He’s had five years of experience at four-star now, and the time has come for another great result. He delivered a 26.8 at Badminton, though he tends more towards the high 20s, and the Luhmühlen course should suit his nippy athleticism. He was slow at Badminton — understandably, with a problem — and added 12.4 at Luhmühlen in 2017, so his speed on Saturday will decide whether he climbs the leaderboard, but then he should go clear on Sunday, while we lose all common sense and gaze at him with hearts in our eyes.

George Hilton-Jones and Efraim

Ten-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Ultime Espoir x Veroniek).Owned by Isabelle Hilton-Jones.

Buckinghamshire-based George runs a compact but busy yard, from which he produces, competes, and breeds his eventers. He also set up an innovative event horse selling scheme, which mimicked all the best bits of an auction – horses in one place, vets on site, and the chance to see horses perform – without the actual auction. Sometimes, he wears kilts. All in all, he’s a pretty well-rounded chap.

George has produced ten-year-old Efraim through the levels, beginning with his debut in 2015. Now, he’s done 17 internationals, and up until his last run, the only cross-country jumping fault he’d picked up had been 11 penalties for a knocked frangible pin at the beginning of last season. Unfortunately, that last run is a real black spot on his record: he picked up 40 penalties and was ultimately retired on course at Chatsworth. We’ll forgive him on the basis of the clear rounds he notched up in CCI4*-S classes at Belton and Burnham Market, though. Now, it’s time for both horse and rider to put their heads down and tackle their debut five-star with aplomb.

Andrew James and Cool Chica

Fourteen-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Chicago Z  x Lady B). Owned by the rider.

The most remarkable thing about Cool Chica is that he is, in fact, a gelding. (‘Chico’ is also for sale, as per Andrew’s website, so if you’ve got some pocket money to spare, keep an eye on this one this week.) It’ll be interesting to watch him at his second five-star this week; though he’s plenty talented, his career has been a bit of a rollercoaster. He went to Burghley last year, but failed to complete after Andrew fell at the Trout Hatchery, and then rerouted to Blenheim, where he produced a clear – albeit slow – round across the CCI4*-L track. He’s been clear in both his international runs since then, so it certainly looks like he learned something after a reasonably disastrous 2016 season, in which he seldom completed an event. Andrew has wisely chosen a kinder five-star track for the horse’s second attempt at the level, and will be hoping for a steady completion.

Andrew James and Hold Me Down

Fourteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse (Touchdown x Cavaliers Colleen). Owned by Stephen and Becky Graves.

Initially competed by his owner, the lasciviously-named Hold Me Down joined Andrew’s string in late 2014, guaranteeing Andrew a spot in the Jilly Cooper-style eventing bonkbusters of the future. Sorry, Andrew, but it’s probably true. We’ll be willing to write you out – for a lump sum.

Anyway, Hold Me Down’s record is a bit here and there, like his stablemate’s, although he’s recorded some good clear rounds at four-star, including an eleventh-place finish at Ballindenisk CCI4*-L earlier this spring. He’s an upper-30s horse, and hasn’t learned to go for the time yet, but he’s a good jumping horse and should have a nice, educational run around his first five-star.

Tom McEwen and Figaro van het Broekxhof take the win at Belton. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tom McEwen and Figaro van het Broekxhof

Fourteen-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Tauber van het Kapelhof x Damira Van’t Heidenhof). Owned by Barbara Cooper.

Like many Belgian men, Figaro van het Broekxhof is very tall and very good-looking, and cloaked in a very appealing aura of mystery. That is to say, nobody really knew a bloody thing about him until this season, when Tom put his foot on the accelerator and showed us all just how exceptionally good this horse is. A surprise win in Belton’s Grantham Cup CCI4*-S saw him best a colossal field full of some of the best horses in the world, and since then, he’s been well-nigh unstoppable, and hasn’t been out of the top five in his last four internationals.

This will be his second five-star start: he went to Badminton in 2016 with former rider Jodie Amos, but was eliminated on cross-country. Speaking of former riders, he’s had a fair few – in his international career, he’s been ridden by Anthony Clark, Sarah Olivier, Sarah Bullimore, Jodie Amos, and now Tom. While he might be a bit of a late bloomer, he’s certainly making up for lost time now. Expect a dressage score around 30 – he can get into the 20s on his day – and, on recent form, a quick clear on Saturday. In his recent CCI4*-S he’s on even keel between clear showjumping rounds and four-faulters – but his last long saw him drop a rail, so that could prove influential.

Sharon Polding and Findonfirecracker

Twelve-year-old British-bred Sport Horse mare (Zenturio x Lightfield High Rocks). Owned by the rider.

Sharon saw one of her dreams come true in 2017 when she and her top horse Findonfirecracker were selected for the CCI3*-S Europeans in Belgium. For working mum Sharon, who is a global accounts manager at a telecommunications company, it was a huge moment. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite go to plan — they were eliminated across the country when she took a tumble.

Undeterred, they headed to Blenheim CCI4*-L, going clear for 27th place, and they’ve been clear at every international since, including a great performance and 24th place in their five-star debut at Pau. Dizzy doesn’t love the first phase, and will probably score around the mid-to-high 30s. But she’ll come into her own on Saturday, and we’d love to see another characteristic clear round for this pair. They’ll have a healthy smattering of time penalties, though perhaps fewer than at Pau, but then they should go clear on Sunday.

Patricia Pytches and CES Ballycar Chip. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Patricia Pytches and CES Ballycar Chip

Thirteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Chippison x Killernan Henrietta). Owned by 

Keen hunting follower Tricia and her thirteen-year-old gelding made their five-star debut at Pau last year, jumping a slow clear to finish 27th. But it wasn’t a five-star debut for Tricia, really – she’d jumped around Burghley way back in 1981. Her pure joy upon completion at Pau was totally infectious, and her journey back to the top inspirational.

Tricia has produced CES Ballycar Chip herself after buying him from Vere Phillips as a youngster, and he’s her only horse — together, they’ve tackled a plethora of events, as well as some of the country’s most formidable hedges when following hounds.

They’ll likely score in the high 30s, and they won’t be quick across the country, but they’ll enjoy this new challenge and tackle it with aplomb.

Jo Rimmer and Isaac Newton

Twelve-year-old British-bred Sport Horse (Grannex x Hope IV). Owned by Anna Slight and the rider.

Both horse and rider made their step up to five-star at Pau last year, finishing 32nd after picking up the only cross-country jumping penalties of the horse’s international career.  Otherwise, they’ve gone clear in twelve runs, and that 20 will likely have taught them a thing or two as well.

Their high-30s dressage won’t challenge the leaders, but they’ll be aiming to add to their impressive record on Saturday, though they’ll add some time across the country. They’ll probably take two rails with them on Sunday, but an early five-star is all about gaining experience and confidence, and a couple of rails won’t diminish their joy at finishing the competition.

Eliza Stoddart and Dick O’Malley soar up the leaderboard to finish sixth at Belton. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Eliza Stoddart and Dick O’Malley

Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Flintstone x Vision Express). Owned by the Flint Syndicate.

Eliza was the winner of the ‘whodat?’ prize at Belton this year, when she and Dick O’Malley finished sixth in the Grantham Cup. But those who know, certainly know: Eliza is a seriously talented jockey who has been quietly working her proverbial off to carve out her niche at the upper levels. She proved that Belton wasn’t a fluke, heading off to Ballindenisk and finishing sixth in the CCI4*-L there.

Eliza cut her teeth in the industry working for some of the greats, including Oliver Townend and Pippa Funnell, so it’s no surprise she knows her way around a cross-country course. It’s all a great foundation for her five-star debut aboard the horse who was originally meant to be a resale project. But Eliza loved the talented chestnut, and quickly formed a syndicate with the help of some of her closest friends. She’ll certainly have a committed group of fans this week, and rightly so. Their mid-30s dressage won’t have them at the top of the leaderboard early on, but if all goes to plan, watch them climb.

Georgie Spence and Cooley Earl celebrate a clear round at Barbury. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Georgie Strang and Cooley Earl

Twelve-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Ramiro B x Regular Eaton). Owned by Lance and Diana Morrish. 

Georgie has been clocking up some jolly good five-star experience over the past few years, and Cooley Earl has been learning the ropes at the level too, making his debut at Pau in 2017. They finished 20th there over an incredibly tough course, and then completed Badminton the following year, albeit with some problems on Saturday. They’ve had a bit of a tricky spring season, with issues on course at both Belton and Houghton, and Georgie will likely have cherry-picked Luhmühlen as a suitable course to help the horse find his feet again. The big bay made easy work of the indoor eventing at Geneva over the winter, so his footwork is certainly fast enough. Still, it’s prudent to expect that education will be the goal here.

Zara Tindall and Watkins. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Zara Tindall and Watkins

Thirteen-year-old New Zealand Sport Horse gelding (Viking Ruler x Vargas Diamond). Owned by Judith Luff.

Eventing’s very own princess (sort of – the rules royal ascendency escape us, because we are mere peasants) is back, and she’s riding exceptionally well at the moment. She rode Class Affair to ninth place at Bramham last week and showed us plenty of the old magic across the country. We’re excited to see her back at this level for the first time since Burghley in 2017.

Watkins is another horse who’s been passed around a fair bit – Zara has had the ride again since the beginning of this year, and rode him for the 2015 and 2016 seasons, but Tom McEwen competed him throughout 2018. Before 2015, he did the rounds in New Zealand, piloted by Heelan Tompkins, Sarah Young, and Blyth Tait. He’s becoming a very good cross-country horse, but his first-phase performance lets him down – he’s a high-30s scorer most days. He’s also likely to have a rail or two on the final day.

Becky Woolven and DHI Babette K. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Becky Woolven and DHI Babette K

Thirteen-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare (Marlon x Fleur). Owned by Julie Record.

We’re used to seeing Becky at five-stars with the gorgeous Charlton Down Riverdance, but this week, we see her introduce Babette to the top level. Formerly ridden by Laura Ritchie-Bland, Babette joined Becky’s string in 2017, and has been learning the ropes at four-star ever since. This spring, we’ve seen her come into her own – her dressage scores have dropped to the low thirties, and she’s reliably producing some reasonably speedy clear rounds. She’s prone to a pole or two, but despite that, she’s been in the top fifteen in CCI4*-S sections at Burnham Market and Chatsworth. It’s a big leap from last year, when she was still finding her feet and picking up the odd 20, and she’s beginning to look like a very exciting prospect. She’s still relatively inexperienced, so adjust your expectations accordingly, but it’ll be fun to watch what she makes of Luhmühlen.

IRELAND

Tony Kennedy and Westeria Lane begin their 2019 redemption song. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Tony Kennedy and Westeria Lane

Fourteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Rantis Diamond x Salem Spirit). Owned by Con Kennedy. 

It’ll be a second five-star for 25-year-old Tony and Sam, the one-eyed gelding he bought for a pittance as a three-year-old. Sam is a very interesting horse, and one that you can’t help but root for – he’s not at all the typical stamp of a top-level eventer, but he’s endlessly gutsy and clever, and he jumps so astutely, and so straight, that if you couldn’t see it, you’d never guess he’s missing his left eye.

But this is the segue of nature and nurture; Sam has all the good stuff that can’t be taught – heart, honesty, and a sense of humour – while Tony has put in the hours required to build trust and make his job a little bit easier. It’s paid off, and despite an unconventional early start – “I was fifteen, and so producing a youngster to me meant galloping over 1.40 fences” – they’ve truly grown up together, contesting the Young Rider European Championships and a debut five-star at Pau in 2017, where they finished best of the Irish and in the top twenty after jumping clear around the toughest Michelet track we’ve ever seen. A Badminton debut should have followed, but Tony shattered his collarbone at Chatsworth in 2018, laying him up for much of the season, while fellow countryman Brian Morrison took the reins and piloted Sam to a win in the national championships. Now, the original duo are back together and feeling quietly confident ahead of their second effort at the level.

Don’t expect miracles in the first phase – these two are climbers, and will find themselves out of the hunt during the week, after putting a high-30s score on the board. It’s on Saturday that they’ll really shine, and they’ll be hoping for a tough track that allows them to eclipse the dressage leaders. On Sunday, it’s as much a game of chance as anything else – historically, they’ve pulled a handful of rails, but their showjumping is steadily improving, and we saw Sam sail around Houghton’s showjumping track clear, so easily he could have done it with his remaining eye closed.

Sam Watson and every girl’s dream pony, Tullabeg Flamenco. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Sam Watson and Tullabeg Flamenco

Ten-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Tullabeg Fusion x Tullabeg Heidi). Owned by David Bogossian.

EquiRatings’ big boss will be a busy man this week – alongside his five-star ride, he also has his Ballindenisk winner Imperial Sky in the CCI4*-S, and he probably has some numbers to wrestle into submission, or something.

We’re big fans of the gorgeous Tullabeg Flamenco, and not just because he looks like a chunk of gold dipped in caramel, although that certainly helps. He was top ten in all his international runs in 2018, and fourth in the CCI4*-S at Tatts, giving him a great foundation for his first trip around a five-star. He’s piloted by an experienced jockey, too – in case you didn’t know, Sam was part of the silver medal-winning team at the WEG last year.

Expect a mid-30s dressage score – Tullabeg Flamenco’s scores fluctuate between the lower and upper 30s, but he did a very good test for 31 in trying conditions at Chatsworth. He’s a consistent cross-country performer, and ordinarily quick, and he’s clear more often than not over the poles, too. He’s not an obvious winner in this field, but he could quietly produce a very impressive result this week.

ITALY

Simone Sordi and Amacuzzi (ITA). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Simone Sordi and Amacuzzi

Sixteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Marcuzzi x Amara). Owned by Maria Giovanna Mazzocchi Bordone.

This will be a debut five-star for both horse and rider, who represented Italy at last year’s WEG, but were unfortunately eliminated across the country. Simone has had a full and interesting career so far – alongside eventing, he trains racehorses. He’s also come back from a horrific fall, which put him in a coma and from which it was thought he might never recover. But recover he did, and here he is with his top horse, ready to tackle the highest level of all.

The former Mark Todd ride is very good in the first phase, scoring in the 20s more and more frequently. He can be both quick and clear, but can also pick up the odd 20 penalties. He’s also quite likely to pull a couple of rails on Sunday.

JAPAN

Yoshiaki Oiwa and Calle 44 (JPN). Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Yoshiaki Oiwa and Calle 44

Twelve-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Cristo x Sara IV). Owned by the rider.

When Yoshi and Calle 44 won Bramham in 2017, they made history – it wasn’t just the first time a Japanese rider had won the prestigious four-star, it was also the first time a Japanese rider had won any competition at the level outside of their home country.

Based with Dirk Schrade in Germany, Yoshi can claim a string of very impressive results: he was 20th at the Rio Olympics with The Duke of Cavan, 11th at his first Badminton back in 2005 with Voyou Dy Roc, and with Calle 44, he’s won Strzegom CCI4*-S twice and placed in plenty of international showjumping classes. The pair have been in the top ten in their last four internationals, consistently laying down mid-to-high 20s scores in the first phase and jumping fast clears across the country. Their showjumping is pretty consistent, too. Keep an eye on them.

Kenki Sato and Shanaclough Contadora

Nine-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare (Contador x Shanaclough Diamond Queen). Owned by Shodo Sato.

If you’re a keen follower of #JapanWatch (and if not, you probably ought to be), you’ll be as excited as we are to see Kenki Sato back on the main stage. Kenki competed at the London 2012 Olympics, taking a short leave of absence from his normal life to take part. That normal life? Training to be a Buddhist priest at the Myōshō-ji temple in the mountain village of Ogawa. His father, Shodo, is the master of the temple, and was an accomplished equestrian himself, just missing out on an Olympic appearance because of the boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Shanaclough Contadora only moved up to four-star last season, but she’s been excellent at the level – we haven’t seen her finish outside the top twenty since mid-2018. That’s seven runs, for what it’s worth, in which she’s consistently scored in the mid-to-high 30s but then laid down super-fast clear rounds in both jumping phases. She’s very young, and this is a debut five-star for the mare, who was produced by Ireland’s Brian Morrison, but she’s definitely looking like the next superstar for Team Japan.

Kazuma Tomoto and Brookpark Vikenti take steps towards Tokyo. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

Kazuma Tomato and Brookpark Vikenti

Eleven-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding (Master Imp x Tullineaskey Butler’s Simon). Owned by the Japan Racing Association.

King Kazu is on a roll. Kazuma, who has been based with William Fox-Pitt since mid-2017, is aiming to qualify all four of his enviable string of top horses for Tokyo, and although new ride Vinci de la Vigne might be the biggest talking point of the four, it’s his Chatsworth CCI4*-S winner we’ll see here this week. Brookpark Vikenti very, very nearly won the Blenheim eight-and-nine-year-old CCI4*-S in 2017, losing out by a tenth of a penalty, and so it was fantastic to see him take the win he so deserved, particularly as he’s getting better and more reliable in each phase. Kazu, too, just keeps getting better and better – lest we forget, he only picked up eventing less than four years ago, on the prompting of his national federation.

This is Kazu’s second five-star – he went to Badminton earlier this year with WEG mount Tacoma d’Horset, and it could be his time to shine on the big stage this week. It’s never a good idea to underestimate him, and it’s always great fun to cheer him on – he’s quite possibly the nicest man in eventing.

NEW ZEALAND

Tim Price and Ascona M. Photo by Libby Law.

Tim Price and Ascona M

Eleven-year-old Holsteiner mare (Cassaro Z x Naomi IV). Owned by Suzanne Houchin, Sir Peter Vela, and Ben and Lucy Sangster.

The patriarchal side of eventing’s First Family takes to the five-star stage once again, this time aiming to take the Luhmühlen title from wife Jonelle, who won last year on Faerie Dianimo. Interestingly, his ride this year used to be one of hers, too, but ultra-talented Ava is also ultra-opinionated, and Jonelle opted to let Tim take the reins while she was busy brewing up baby Otis. Some serious negotiation obviously ensued because Jonelle, who had been very firm about the fact that her horses would all go back to her, relented and let Tim keep the ride on this talented up-and-comer, known at home as Ava.

Together, they’ve clocked up some pretty exciting results – they were third in 2017’s Nations Cup at Tattersalls, which was only the horse’s second four-star, and they won on her CCI4*-L debut at Haras du Pin later that season. They wrapped their season with second place at Blenheim’s ERM leg and then, last year, Ava made her five-star debut, laying down one of the best tests of the week but suffering an uncharacteristic tumble on course when she took rather too enthusiastic a leap into the water. Since then, she’s been back on great form, winning the CCI4*-S at Tattersalls as her final prep run.

Ava is a solid mid-20s scorer, and her performances are getting strikingly consistent. She’s an excellent jumper and a consummate trier, and although she’s still relatively inexperienced, you’d be bonkers to look past her.

USA

Allie Knowles and Sound Prospect at Kentucky in 2018. Photo by Leslie Threlkeld.

Allie Knowles and Sound Prospect

Seventeen-year-old Thoroughbred gelding (Eastern Echo XX x Miners Girl XX). Owned by Sound Prospect LLC.

If you love cheering on tough, ballsy riders and equally gritty Thoroughbreds, look no further than Allie and Sound Prospect. Allie suffered a horrific rotational fall at the beginning of 2017, shattering her collarbone and her pelvis and shelving her dreams of Kentucky glory. But she clawed her way back, and by the end of the season, she and Sound Prospect motored around the toughest Pau track in memory to finish just outside the top twenty. They had been sixteenth at Kentucky the year prior, but the following year, they weren’t quite so lucky, and clocked up an elimination – and since then, they’ve had a few more, but they were second at Jersey Fresh in the CCI4*-S in their last prep run, and they’ve more than proven that they’re capable of getting the job done at the top level.

They’ll put a mid-to-high 30s score on the board, followed by what should be a slowish clear across the country. Then, they should showjump clear – they haven’t pulled a rail in an international since the beginning of last season.

Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin. Photo by Shelby Allen.

Frankie Thieriot Stutes and Chatwin

Eleven-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Contendro I x Oktav). Owned by The Chatwin Group.

Don’t let an elimination in the CCI4*-S at Galway Downs put you off – Chatwin and Frankie have a remarkable record. In eighteen internationals, they’ve picked up eight wins and fourteen top-ten finishes – in the other four, they were fifteenth once, withdrew twice, and then had that unfortunate elimination. In 2018, they were the only horse and ride pair to win two CCI4*-L competitions. In doing so, they also took the USEF Eventing National Championship – not too shabby when you consider that Frankie is an amateur rider, and balances her competitive schedule with a full-time job running her own company, Athletux, and also looking after her two young sons, Drake and Kingsley.

Frankie and Chatwin, who loves croissants, should lay down a high 20s dressage score to put some pressure on the leaders, and although this is their first five-star, they’ve been quick and clear throughout their career. On the final day, they’ve got a 50/50 chance of jumping clear – but it shouldn’t stop them from making a brilliant impression.

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