Stage is set for a wonderful Windsor

  • When Windsor Horse Trials decided to revamp its image last year, it set out to surprise and engage the public. True to form, the 2005 edition, which takes place from 26 to 29 May, has a number of strong attractions and entertaining initiatives.

    The CCI** reads like a who’s who of eventing. Battling it out over the course created by Italian designer Giuseppe Dalla Chiesa — who also designed the course at last year’s Junior European Championship — will be William Fox-Pitt with Diamond Manati and Silver Dollar, Leslie Law with Jackson D’Allez and Best Wishes, and Pippa Funnell with Blue Horizon.

    Polly Williamson, who won last year’s Windsor with Wicked Times, is trying to repeat the feat aboard Henbitten. Mary King will be here with Gillian Robinson’s Kings Fancy and John Atkins’ Top Cat II. Among the young blood, Matthew Wright — who is tipped to be Beijing material – will be competing Drummer Boy III and Grove Joucas.

    Also worthy of note is the fact that Windsor has decided to retain the steeplechase, at a time when a number of high profile events are switching to short format.

    “It was very much Mike Tucker’s wish that [Windsor] retains the long format so horses would have a chance to do steeplechase in their progression up the ladder,” explains Winnie Murphy of British Eventing.

    Alongside the CCI**, all eyes will be peeled on the Prospect Cup, which takes place on 28 and 29 May. Introduced in 2004, the Cup is an international challenge where teams of four riders go head-to-head over two intense days. Last year’s teams were loosely grouped by region, but this year they will reflect individual countries.

    “Because [the cup’s] popularity has grown, we can have national teams,” says Murphy. “And with the teams we have, and the riders and horses, I think it’s going to be extremely competitive.”

    Sarah Cutteridge, Pippa Funnell, Piggy French and captain Leslie Law will fly the colours for Britain under the watchful eye of manager Yogi Breisner. They will face fierce opposition from the Australians, who won last year as part of the Australasian region and “are very keen to keep it that way,” according to Murphy. The other contestants will be Ireland, New Zealand, Germany and America, which is managed by Ginny Elliot.

    But the real novelty of Windsor 2005 is the Quest-X competition, which aims to identify the eventing talents of the future. Novices will have an opportunity to prove their mettle at the two-day training camp on 26 and 27 May. The best 15 riders will go to the semi-final on Saturday 28 and only five will make it to the final on Sunday 29 May. The winner will land a series of training sessions with Pippa Funnell, which will take place over the course of a year. The Princess Royal, Breisner and Cutteridge will be part of the Quest-X judging panel.

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