Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Australian Team fielded for WEG2010 likely to be a mixed bag

In true Aussie style the team selection for the World Equestrian Games at Kentucky this September will be a last minute announcement. Probably just before the plane is due to take off!

The team they field though is going to be a very mixed bag with few if any choices. The Australian selectors, and a few riders who'd like to think of themselves as selectors,  prefer to select riders based on home territory, but for many years this has not been possible, nor is it ever likely to be. The depth and breath of the sport in GB is such that any aspiring international rider not to base themselves here, visas permitting, reduces their chances of success in the big northern hemisphere events. Hence numerous Aussie & Kiwi riders head to Great Britain to make their name.

In fact if Clayton & Lucinda Fredericks had horses to field this year, the strongest Australian team would probably be entirely GB based. As it stands the Fredericks duo, who competed at Hong Kong in 2008, are not expecting a call from the Aussie selectors, and Matt Ryan (triple Olympic Gold Medalist) is struggling to get 4 star rides after the retirement of Bonza Puzzle, not to mention his confusion over his own nationality. So this leaves the Aussie selectors with something of a mixed bag to choose from.

GB based Paul Tapner, who has been steadily tabling good results at the big 3-day-events over the last few years and has a string of top flight horses, will undoubtedly be part of the team (GB based). Based on what I've heard today, it'd be pretty foolish of the selectors to leave him at home.

Sam Griffiths, also GB based, has come to prominence in the last 2 years notching up podium places on  Happy Times at Badminton & Burghley.

Bill Levett - worthy of selection
The other GB based Aussie that I think is often over looked is Bill Levett. His string of horses wouldn't be of the same class as Paul Tapner's but he does have one that is improving year on year, Hippolyte. This horse was third in a world cup qualifer at the tough Gatcombe course and double clear at Badminton this year to finish 7th. All that work with Bettina Hoy is clearly paying dividends!

So now we're really down to Australia for the remaining options, and Sonja Johnson's Ringwould Jaguar has an impressive record, but this thoroughbred cross quarter horse is now 19 going on 20, I'd be surprised if he has a decent run in a foreign based championship left in him. With few other alternatives, the selectors may have no other choice but hand him a plane ticket.

Stuart Tinney is another obvious choice with Vettori, winner of the Adelaide CCI****, but this event was run at a reduced time and distance, so this horse doesn't stand out head and shoulders above the rest.

This just leaves Megan Jones and Kirby Park Irish Jester with any form or championship experience to speak of.

Whatever happens, the shenanigans of Aussie team selection, will be as entertaining to watch as the any of these Aussie riders.


  1. Australian selection is very interesting!

    These are all valid points and no doubt the the horses/riders sent to Kentucky will be a mixture of British and Australian Based riders.

    Megan Jones and Irish Jester are the most experienced in terms of championship experience. They consistently receive dressage scores in the mid-high 30s and are reasonably quick across the country. It is also worthy to note that she was the highest placed Australian in Beijing (4th) and beat individual 4 star winners, only missing out on a medal by having the last fence down.

    Sonja Johnson and Ringwould Jaguar also put in an excellent performance in Beijing finishing 9th overall and helping to secure team silver. Also he is an Australian Stock Horse and is currently 18 going on 19. Jaguar didn't start eventing until he was 9 years old, and Sonja says that he feels better than ever. They won their last start at the Melbourne CCI***, where they were the only combination to finish on their dressage score and one of only 2 horses to make time cross country (the other was Sonja's younger horse.

    Obviously Paul Tapner and Sam Griffiths have proven themselves at European 4 star events on multiple occasions and therefore it seems likely they will get a flight to Kentucky.

    Stuart Tinney and Vettori are an interesting one. For me, as an observer the two question marks for this horse are (1) its dressage, (scored a 54 in Adelaide last year) and (2) its speed cross country. Vettori is not the quickest and has never made time at a 4 star. However having said that their dressage at Melbourne CCI*** was much improved and the horse has been 2nd and 5th at Adelaide CCI**** on two other occasions. They also came 3rd at Luhmulen CCI**** in 2008. It should also be noted that Vettori is an extremely reliable showjumper.

    The other horse Stuart could be selected on is his mare Panamera. She is extremely classy and was 2nd in the CCI*** at Melbourne in June, narrowly beaten by Sonja Johnson. On paper, her results show potential as she seems to be better on the flat and faster cross country than Vettori, although far less experienced. She is also a strong showjumper.

    Video of Stuart and Panamera - Dressage Melbourne CCI*** -

    Video of Stuart and Panamera - X - Country at Melbourne CCI***

    Video of Stuart and Panamera - SJ at Melbourne CCI***

    Do not forget that Stuart himself is an Olympic gold medalist in Sydney where he was the highest placed rider in the team competition.

    Bill Levett certainly put up a class performance to finish 7th with Hippolyte at Badminton along with his 3rd placings from Samur and Gatcombe in 2009. Although he states in his blog that Hippolyte picked up an injury at/just after Barbury a few weeks ago and is therefore out of contention.

    The final combination could perhaps be filled by Christopher Burton and Leilani. This mare is relatively inexperienced however they have had could results at various CIC***s. They also came 3rd at Melbourne CCI***. Their most notable performance was winning the CIC-W*** in Sydney on their dressage score, beating Megan Jones and Sonja Johnson.

    Video of Chris and Leilani Showjumping at Melbourne:

    Video of Chris and Leilani X-Country at Melbourne:

    No doubt the Australians will pull something out of the bag in Kentucky as they have on numerous occasions.

    Sorry for the long comment!
    Love the site by the way.

  2. Please don't apologise, have really enjoyed reading your thoughts and comments.

    Clayton had mentioned Chris to me, but he slipped my mind until now.

    I really hope the Aussie Team does well, they're a nice, hard working bunch of guys always happy to share a beer in the lorry park. And it isn't always easy for them to get decent rides over here in the UK.


  3. I think given that Paul & Sam are freshman, they'll have little choice but to field some experienced riders from down under.