Who do you think will win the inaugural Express Eventing competition in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium this weekend? There’s certainly been plenty of debate about the topic on the H&H forum.
Personally, I’m really disappointed Lucinda Fredericks has withdrawn — I thought she had a good chance and I wanted to see her and Headley Britannia do dressage to music. Now I think Bettina Hoy will lead after the first phase — surely no one can challenge her and the majestic grey Ringwood Cockatoo at that?
Will she be able to hold that lead? I’m not so sure. On their day, they are a top class combination, but speed wouldn’t be their forte and that will count here. Nerves will undoubtedly also come into play for those left at the sharp end vying for the £100,000 first prize.
The problem with tipping in this competition is that there’s no previous form to go on, plus it’s such a high-class field. At a four-star, it’s easy work to isolate the 10% or so of the field who have a chance of winning and there are normally a couple of favourites in that portion.
In Express Eventing, there will be no also-rans — every single rider will be there to try to take the big bucks, and I think any one of them could do it.
If I’ve got to put myself on the line, my money is on Mary King and Call Again Cavalier or Lucy Wiegersma and Shaabrak. Both are good enough on the flat to be well up there after the dressage and both are fast and accurate across country. Shaabrak’s show jumping can be his weakness, so keep your fingers crossed for Lucy as she tackles the coloured poles. Hong Kong aside, Call Again Cavalier has a superb record in this phase.
Both are avenging disappointment elsewhere in 2008: Lucy in losing her Olympic place and retirement at Burghley, Mary in dropping out of individual medal contention at the Olympics and then missing out on winning Pau with a run-out.
I’d love to see either of them win, but it really is anybody’s game. What do you think will happen? Join the debate online.
Keep an eye out for Tina Cook’s final pre-Express Eventing online diary later this week.
Don’t miss a report on www.horseandhound.co.uk from Express Eventing on Sunday evening. And buy H&H next Thursday (4 December) for full report, colour pictures and William Fox-Pitt’s comment.