Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Badminton 2013: In The Shadows Of The 3 Kings Of Cool

$350,000 Rolex Grand Slam Contenders Andrew Nicholson & William Fox-Pitt
The sport of eventing is made up of three 'tests' covering three very different disciplines, and requires a horse and rider to perform in perfect harmony in order to win at this level, and as we all know where horses are concerned there are no guarantees, so can we really dismiss 90% of the field going forward for the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials Trophy?

Michael Jung - Grand Slam Spoiler?
There is no doubt the "three kings" (Andrew Nicholson, William Fox-Pitt & Michael Jung) are in the very best form of their careers. They've all won medals at the last World & Olympic Games, They've all won 4 star events in the last 2 years. All three are the coolest characters under pressure and nothing short of Murhpy's Law could possibly predict an alternative outcome other than one of these three lifting the trophy in a week's time. But we've seen major upset and the unexpected at championships & 4 star level before - The Germans at WEG 2010, The Brits at the Europeans, and Andrew Nicholson has had 32 attempts at Badminton without luck before. Pippa Funnell, currently, the only winner of the Rolex Grand Slam seemed invincible and then saw her hopes dashed of a follow up win at Badminton one year, falling from both her entries. So anything that can happen, could happen.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Windy Withington

Bill Levett Had The Right Idea Wearing Trademark Goggles For Cross Country
Withington sits high in the Cotswolds and is run across several hills and ridges. The showjumping takes place on the highest point, and it was so windy today the showjumps were blown over a few times. This was my first visit to here, and I can see why it is a popular event. The going was perfect without the need for any real attention, and whilst a decent Advanced track I wouldn't say its super tough, but there are some nice big fences to attack as you can see from the photos below. The event is only marred slightly by the ugly electricity pilons that feature in almost every photo backdrop.

Jaroslav Hatla
The main problems on the course seemed to be at the double of corners, where from the riders I watched go through only Bill Levett, Paul Tapner and Pippa Funnell made it look easy, plenty of others ran out at one or other of the corners. The Water fence did have a tricky stride and a tricky exit over one of the London 2012 legacy fences, which few made look effortless.

Jaroslav Hatla won Advance Section L on Westwinds Diego with a super fast time of 6m 9s picking up just 6.4 time penalties and come the second to last fence was hot on the heels of Sir Mark Todd, who wasout on course ahead of him. Kitty King picked up second place on Persimmon, whilst winning the other section on Zidante.

Hambleden - Bluebell-less (Almost)

Hambleden | A Great Start To Spring Albeit Without The Bluebells

Hambleden has been one of my favourite events to ride at for many years, made special by the carpet of bluebells that usually cover the woodland setting across much of the event. With a prolonged cold and dry early spring, these have been late to flower. Paul Tapner managed to find the solitary volunteer bluebell that had braved the cold and emerged in time for the show.

Intermediate day was not without it's problems on cross country for many and as far as I can remember seemed to have had an extra loop added this year, just after the second water complex. This included a deceptive drop fence - not that it caused significant problems but I think the downhill run off on landing caught a few people by surprise.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Badminton 2013: Can You Afford To Miss It?

The Official Mitsubishi Vehicles Lined Up For Press Day At Badminton

Michael Jung: Olympic, European & World Champion
One year on and the course may not have changed much from last year's ill-fated event, but there are a few changes, albeit perhaps not as many as Hugh Thomas would have liked. The competitive landscape of entries has changed enormously though. "Eventmeister", Michael Jung is set to run his best two horses at his first ever Badminton, to realise a boyhood dream of competing on the hallowed turf in a bid to seal his name amongst the legends of the sport by winning the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials trophy.

William Fox-Pitt is likely to have two shots at winning the elusive Rolex Grand Slam from his current line up of 5 entries, in order to complete his scrap book of wins outside of the championships. There is every possibility, however slim, that he could be joined by Andrew Nicholson as a challenger for the Grand Slam if Andrew were to win at Rolex Kentucky in a few weeks time.