WEG blog: backing Alf for gold in the dressage today

  • ‘Wildly optimistic’, is what people called my blog two days ago when I suggested: ‘find out the odds for Britain winning team silver, it’s worth a bet’. Ye of little faith!

    So now, I’m going to have another punt… Britain’s Laura Bechtolsheimer for individual gold in the special at the World Equestrian Games today riding Mistral Hojris, aka “Alf”. No, I haven’t had a blow to the head. And I only had one Kentucky Ale last night. I honestly think she can do it. I have a good feeling about this.

    It would be seriously tough. Laura would have to ride her socks off and reproduce exactly what she had yesterday in the grand prix with Alf. She could also do with top rival Totilas having a hiccup in the one-time changes for good measure. But I think it’s doable. The tables are turning.

    Totilas is the wonderhorse, he brings tears to people’s eyes (particularly Americans… emotional lot out here). He’s been described as a “living legend”. Alf, bless his white socks, hasn’t got that notoriety yet. But I think he deserves it.

    Alf doesn’t have Totilas’s wildly expressive front legs. There’s something about Totilas that is enchanting even if you know diddly-squat about dressage. My dad will even watch him. Previously, my dad would rather watch grass grow.

    He’s been an amazing thing for the sport (I mean Totilas, not dad). He’s brought the sport to the masses, got dressage on national TV, and anyone in the industry should be eternally grateful for that. Of course some of the media aren’t. They’re turning on Totilas. They think his movement is “over produced”. Alf they like. Laura rides “very classically” they say. This is what the aficionados want to see (we’re not sure re the public, yet). She does ride beautifully and looks a happy partnership with Alf. There is nothing jarring in her riding or training, nothing at all not to like. They’re a pleasure to watch. (Dad, seriously, Eurosport this evening, check it out).

    And ultimately the sport needs competition. Look how people went off Formula One in the Schumacher era. They only want to see a “living legend” for so long. And the sport of dressage knows this. Equally, the sport has had an uncanny way in the past three years of producing the “story” that a sport needs to remain popular.

    Let’s not diss Totilas, he’s still a living legend. But Alf for gold this time. Do you remember Alf The Friendly Alien? The furry wiseguy? This is Alf the friendly horse. The jolly giant with his happy, floppy ears. Alf the trier, the horse with the biggest heart. The horse who trusts his slip of a rider enough to pop round that massive stadium even though if he’s honest it’s a little bit scary, really. Alf who could piaffe all day long and stay relaxed despite all the power he puts into every step. And Laura, the modest English rose, who loves her pony as much as any British girl, and can’t even quite see how well she’s doing. Yet.

    Soppy? American? Moi?

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