Mark Todd: ‘Why aren’t there more British riders showing form and influencing the top levels of the sport?’ *H&H VIP*

  • Although the quality of the field in the Event Rider Masters (ERM) class at Bramham was somewhat diluted by factors such as the Brits in contention for Rio selection being asked to run in the “normal” CIC3* class so team manager Yogi Breisner could see them showjump after cross-country, it still produced a very exciting competition.

    Di Boddy built a strong showjumping track with a twisty bit in the middle of the course, and this phase was quite influential.

    The cross-country wasn’t overly difficult, but there was enough to jump. It was a galloping track and there wasn’t much you had to slow up for, and the ground was perfect. Looking at the final few in the reverse-order cross-country, you might have thought the two very fast women — Jonelle Price and Izzy Taylor — might have the edge over Alex Hua Tian and Clark Montgomery, who were first and second after showjumping.

    They were within a point or two of each other, and if you wanted to hold your place you had to be clear inside the time.

    It was up in the air right to the line. Izzy had two run-outs, but Jonelle was faultless and put the pressure on the top two — both of whom delivered. It made brilliant viewing, and the producers of the ERM show had greatly improved the graphics on display.

    I think there was some concern from the Bramham organisers that ERM might steal the show from the other CCI and CIC classes, but I think if anything it added to the event and took nothing away.

    The extra loop on the CCI track made the course for that class pretty strong. The combination at the far end — an oxer to two skinny angled rails over ditches — caused problems, and a lot of fences gave horses a great deal to think about. My own horse, OBOS Colombus, was a bit shell-shocked by the cumulative effect of big question after big question, and it wasn’t just the green horses who found it difficult.

    But others made it look easy, and it was a beautifully built course with quite an old-fashioned feel and very forward, positive distances. Bramham is a wonderful event, but for some reason it is not a happy hunting ground for me — I have completed there once in my past seven attempts!

    Finding the next stars

    The focus now is on Olympic selection — the Irish have named their team, which I think is quite a bold move so early — and there’s quite a bit of last-minute shuffling about in various camps, and none more so than in the British.

    Personally, I think William Fox-Pitt has done enough to be selected, as long as he is happy with his own fitness. His brace of CCI wins at Tattersalls were good to see, as was Andrew Nicholson’s success at Bramham. It’s back to business as usual.

    Alongside discussions as to who will make the team, speculation is growing as to who might take over Yogi Breisner’s job as manager. With the emergence of younger blood such as Gemma Tattersall and Kitty King, it could be an interesting time to step in.

    That leads me on to something that puzzles me. When Britain has so many riders, such a superb network of events and the best owner structure in the world, why aren’t there more British riders showing form and influencing the top levels of the sport?

    However, I watched a lot of the young rider CCI2* at Houghton, and I was impressed with the quality of some of the riding. So perhaps we are about to see new stars emerge.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 16 June 2016