Friday, 17 September 2010

WEG 2010 Eventing: The Top 6

William Fox-Pitt | Favourite For A Medal
Why 6? Well if Team GBR get into the top 5 the top 6 auto qualify for London 2012. Now I've never really understood the concept of this being a "team" sport, considering there really aren't any tactics you can undertake to effect the outcome that can't be achieved in the individual listings, and it's format is still laid out as a 'test' rather than a competition. But I'll play along for now and leave that discussion for another post later on.

What's very exciting at about these World Equestrian Games is they are being held in the US, and there have been a number of excellent performances from a variety of nations during this season. It's always so different watching eventing during a Games year. I think it'll be even more interesting in 2012 as with the Olympics being held in the UK I think we'll see so many teams looking to train in Britain that year, and we've already been fielding calls about riders wanting to be based at our yard.

Anyway, back to WEG. The US team hasn't had the best run of luck in recent years, but home turf and one or two fresh faces on the team will, I think, have a positive effect on their performance. I do still have a niggling doubt over their readiness for next week's WEG, as their selection trial was both very late, and didn't exactly go according to plan. Their recent 4* record [the horses] outside of the US in recent years is sparse, and I still maintain this is where the real indicators to success lay, so I'm a little hesitant to predict a US team medal.

To be assured of a team medal requires 3 riders in the top 10, any other results relies too heavily on the mistakes of others, out on the cross country.

Where I do feel a lot more confident is in the following teams:

Great Britain:
Team GBR
Without any bias (genuinely) the British  team members have consistently performed at 3 & 4* events and championships in Europe and the US throughout the last decade, and there would be little cause for concern with the six riders on route to Kentucky. I understand that a decision about which riders will form the team will be decided at the first Trot-up, and I'm assuming a walk around the country course, may well influence the decision. I'm going to put my neck out and suggest the Brits will come home with 2 medals. Between them, this group of individuals have more medals and 4* wins than any of the other teams. I'm particularly interested to see who apart from William & Tina they put on the team list.

Chris Bartle
The last 5 years has seen a real step change in the performance of the Germans, and I think Chris Bartle is really starting to come into his own now as an international coach. Watching them throughout this year you can tell you're watching a German just by the sheer precision and analytical approach they have in every aspect of their competing, from walking courses to dressage warm up. I'd be very surprised if they don't carry off at least one medal, and most likely two.

Mark Todd
New Zealand:
Possibly the most interesting and exciting team of all. With 3 exceptionally strong cross country performers (Mark, Andrew, Caroline), and albeit not the best dressage performances from their horses, if you take a look at how far they climb up the rankings, post dressage, you could easily see a top 6 placing coming from this team, provided Andrew Nicholson can keep his cool. I recon if the kiwis can improve their dressage scores by 10 points across the team, they'll have a team medal. Mark Todd has a remarkable talent for sqeezing every last drop of talent out of a horse, and whilst NZB Grass Valley isn't the pick of the New Zealand horses, I'll bet Mark's been working on getting this horse into the top 15 after Dressage.

Paul Tapner
Considering this is the nation of fun loving beach BBQ-ers, the Australians are super focussed when it comes to their sport, you've only got to spend some time with Paul Tapner, Andrew Hoy or listen to Wayne Roycroft to realise they will not be content with anything other than a medal. I'm a little too concerned over their arduous travel itinerary (the horses from Australia) to foresee a clean sweep across the board, but I recon the horse with a fairly good chance of a medal is Happy Times, who just seems to be particularly switched on at the moment. I'd be very surprised if they don't appear in the top five teams, and could even bring home a bronze.

Nicholas Touzaint
The French sneak up on you in these championship competitions and before you know it, there's three lying in the top fifteen after cross country, and by end of play they're holding a medal! On the face of it they are not the strongest team overall, but look a little closer and you'll see they have some solid form and a rising star in Nicholas Touzaint. He's bound to start and finish in the top ten, and it would take only one of his team mates to join him for them to finish in the teams top 6.

Phillip Dutton
Despite my reservations I do think the US Team is talented enough for a top 6 placing, although Mark Phillips may have his work cut out over the next few weeks getting this mixed team fine tuned, but home turf, and plenty of training resources should surely see this team find a qualifying slot, although I think they will just be outside the team medals. However, there could well be a challenge for an individual medal from either Philip Dutton or Becky Holder. Whatever happens with the US Team, the power of the audience is bound to lift their performance.

Alltech have really gone all out in promoting these games, and I've seen so many great uses of social media and the internet, unlike anything we've ever seen at a WEG, creating probably the greatest buzz around an equestrian event so far. These are just the type of sponsors we need in the sport - so Alltech I salute you! I just wish I'd noticed a few of these promotions a little earlier with some great prizes on offer.

Looking forward, London 2012 is going to be even more exciting as so many of the horses running here are being tipped as ones to watch for 2012.

The game's afoot! Let the games begin......

ps. for those of you going to WEG, if you only get to see one horse go cross country, make sure it's Opposition Buzz - you'll be amazed!

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