The news that Wesko is out for the season is a severe blow to New Zealand’s Rio hopes.

I said last year in H&H (29 October issue) that I believed Tim Price’s ride could be consistently the best eventer in the world over the next five years and I think he was the Kiwi’s strongest chance of an individual medal. In my eyes his dressage test was better than La Biosthetique-Sam FBW’s at Kentucky last year, though the judges, who gave them identical scores, didn’t agree! Ah well, what do I know?

In the shorter term, his withdrawal takes a major contender out of the running for the trophy at Kentucky.

My prediction for a Kentucky winner now? Michael Jung on FischerRocana FST. My prediction for a Badminton winner? Michael Jung on La Biosthetique-Sam FBW (pictured top).

Does that mean I’m predicting Michael will win the Rolex Grand Slam next Sunday? It’s a bold statement, but yes, I am. Of course all the stars need to align for it to happen, but I do think the German is the clear favourite in both fields.

Kentucky: who else is in the running?

The Kentucky entry is the weaker of the two and should be the easier event for Michael to win.

His main opponents are probably the home side’s Phillip Dutton, Boyd Martin and Buck Davidson (who have nine rides between them so have numbers on their side as well as form), plus Mark Todd with NZB Campino. While the other New Zealand entries should be competitive, I can’t see any of them besting Rocana, barring something unexpected happening.

The wildcard could be Sinead Halpin and Manoir De Carneville, who were second at Burghley in 2012, but haven’t quite matched that form since.

What about Badminton?

As for Badminton, I’ve given 15 pairs the “star combination” rating in next week’s H&H form guide (on sale Thursday 5 April). The stars go only to those I consider can win — and I’ve been wrong before, when I didn’t star up Paulank Brockagh two years ago! I won’t make that mistake again.

If I had to cut that down further, I think the big six title contenders are Michael, Ingrid Klimke (Horseware Hale Bob), Mark Todd (Leonidas II), Andrew Nicholson (Nereo), Zara Tindall (High Kingdom) and Christopher Burton (Nobilis 18). The latter three will all be higher priced — Andrew and Zara because they are coming back from rider or horse injury and Christopher because Nobilis 18 is pretty inexperienced.

Continued below…



Do you agree with me? Go on, nail your colours to the mast and tweet me your Badminton and/or Kentucky winner predictions, plus a maximum of five other contenders. Tag me in on @pipparoome — I’d love to know what everyone else thinks.