Sixty-nine riders, eighteen nations, eight teams, three phases, six medals. Welcome to the European Eventing Championships 2009.
This week the eventing world turns to Fontainebleau, just 40km south of Paris, for the year’s HSBC-sponsored senior championship (23-27 September).
For the Brits, the focus is on claiming the country’s eighth team gold medal in a row at this level — no pressure then.
The combinations who finished first and second at Badminton, Oliver Townend (Flint Curtis) and William Fox-Pitt (Idalgo) are joined in the team by Olympic double bronze medallists Tina Cook and Miners Frolic (pictured).
Britain’s fourth team member is still to be confirmed — Mary King was originally named for the slot with Imperial Cavalier, but following an injury he was withdrawn and Piggy French called up with Some Day Soon. She is likely to ride as an individual, with most pundits believing Nicola Wilson will join the team on Opposition Buzz.
The third British squad rookie is Lucy Wiegersma, who makes her long-awaited debut on Woodfalls Inigo Jones.
As Mark Phillips says in H&H this week, the Brits’ main rivals are likely to be the French and the Germans.
The Germans are likely to build their team on rock solid cross-country combinations Andreas Dibowski on Euroridings Butts Leon and Ingrid Klimke on FRH Butts Abraxxas. Frank Ostholt’s Air Jordan 2 has proved himself fallible in recent years, but is still likely to make the team, while the new star of the German firmament is 27-year-old Michael Jung, who won at Luhmühlen and the World Cup final this year with his ride here, La Biosthetique-Sam FBW.
The French can run 12 combinations as the home side, so it’s tough to know who will be on their team and who will ride as individuals. Defending champion Nicolas Touzaint brings a championship debutant in exciting 11-year-old Tatchou, while 2002 world champions Jean Teulère and Espoir De La Mare could also feature.
Look out for…
There are notable individuals from the lesser nations too. Belgium’s Karin Donckers brings her Badminton dressage leader Gazelle De La Brasserie and is unlikely to repeat her mistake of miscalculating the cross-country time, while Portugal’s Duarte Seabra should go well on his 2008 Blair CCI*** winner Braveheart.
The joint-oldest horse is Sweden’s Stand By Me, now 19 years old. He and rider Linda Algotsson were individual silver medallists 10 years ago in Luhmühlen and again in Punchestown in 2003. The other 19-year-old equine is Coronado Prior, ridden by France’s Eric Vigeanael. The youngest is eight-year-old mare Bridget, ride of the Netherlands’ Jan Van Beek.
Money on the table time — you heard it here first:
Gold: Ingrid Klimke and FRH Butts Abraxxas (Germany)
Silver: Tina Cook and Miners Frolic (Britain)
Bronze: Karin Donckers and Gazelle De La Brasserie (Belgium)
Read daily reports from the Europeans at www.horseandhound.co.uk/eventingeuros2009 and don’t miss H&H on 1 October for our full eight-page special report.