Twelve years after her last British team appearance, at the Atlanta Olympics, Jane Gregory returns to the limelight as pathfinder for Britain’s dressage squad in Hong Kong when the team contest starts tomorrow at 7.15pm (Hong Kong time).
Jane rides the 16-year-old Danish-bred Lucky Star, on whom she scored a personal best of 72% at Lipica this year. A similar performance will be required under the steamy floodlights of Sha Tin if Britain is to have any chance of getting near the bronze medal.
The experiencd Emma Hindle is second to go on Lancet, and Olympic debutant Laura Bechtolsheimer is anchorwoman on the mighty Mistral Hojris.
Britain has never won an Olympic dressage medal — the best performance is still Chris Bartle’s sixth place on Wily Trout at Los Angeles in 1984.
Predicted rivals for the bronze slot are Denmark, headed by Andreas Helgstrand, this time on Don Schufro, Sweden, fielding the ultra-reliable Jan Brink and Briar, and the reigning bronze medallists, the USA, with everyone’s favourite, Debbie McDonald’s lovely mare Brentina.
Danish team manager Kimi Nielsen said: “We have great team spirit. They enjoy being together and do lots of fun things. We’re one big family.”
Britain is drawn fourth of the 11th teams, while one can’t help but wonder if the Netherlands’ chances of maintaining the momentum they gained in beating Germany at last year’s European Championship has already been scuppered by their being drawn first to go. Germany, the reigning champions, are 10th.
Olympic debutant Hans-Peter Minderhoud on Nadine is first into the arena, followed by Imke Schellekens-Bartels on Sunrise and defending individual champion Anky van Grunsven on Salinero.
Germany is represented by three seasoned Olympic riders, Heiki Kemmer (Bonaparte), Nadine Capellmann (Elvis VA) and Isabell Werth (Satchmo).
There are a record 22 nations entered, and China fields its first Olympic dressage participant, Lina Liu, who trains in Germany.
But under the new format, with only three riders to a team and therefore no luxury of a discount score, plus the levelling experience of extra heat and humidity — night time is almost worse than daytime here — not to mention a highly atmospheric floodlit arena, an especially gripping contest is predicted.
Stay in touch with all the news from the Olympic dressage competition on Horseandhound.co.uk and read H&H’s full report on all the action, on sale 21 August, ’08