Mark Todd: I won a useless stallion once… *H&H VIP*

Opinion

I have to admit that I have been rather a part-time eventer recently, as we have been getting everything sorted for our new racehorse training venture.

I have six two-year-olds in work; some will be ready to run in eight to 10 weeks’ time, while others will take a bit longer and are more like three-year-old types. A couple of older horses look like they are heading my way, and we are steadily building up.

He’s Eminent, who finished second in a Group One for me in Australia earlier in the year and then ran in Hong Kong just before Badminton, is in quarantine before heading home to go to stud in New Zealand.

I think he will make a really good stallion. He’s a lovely horse and I think he will be the first son of Frankel to stand in the southern hemisphere.

Looking to Barbury

On the eventing side of things, Leonidas II did the open novice at Farley Hall recently and heads for the CCI3*-S at Barbury next. I’m taking him along slowly to see how things go, and if all is well he will aim for an Event Rider Masters (ERM) class later in the season.

NZB Campino is enjoying his retirement, McClaren (my 2018 World Equestrian Games ride) started light work on Monday, and sadly Kiltubrid Rhapsody has to be sold.

It will be interesting to see what Barbury is like under the new management of Alec Lochore’s Musketeer business. Barbury is one of the best venues for spectators and has great old turf, even when it is firm, which it shouldn’t be this year after June’s wet weather.

There is no title sponsor this year, though, and let’s hope that doesn’t hobble Alec’s attempts to put a fresh new look on the cross-country course.

As well as Leonidas, I’ve got two novices and a seven-year-old called Cool Tide at Barbury. I’m trying to qualify Cool Tide, a lovely big Chilli Morning horse of whom I think quite a bit, for the seven-year-old World Championships at Le Lion d’Angers — I haven’t competed there this century!

The wrong choice

I did, however, win the third Le Lion, in 1987, on a horse called Pedro The Cruel, a six-year-old who belonged to Lizzie Purbrick — and my prize was a stallion. There was just one class then and he returned to win it the following year as well. After that they changed the rules so you could only do it once, and then they split the classes into six-year-olds and seven-year-olds.

The prize for winning was something like 3,000 francs or an unbroken three-year-old stallion. I took the stallion, thinking, “3,000 francs isn’t much — surely I can make him into more than that?” Of course I didn’t — he was useless!

I rode Pedro until one day, at Thirlestane, he went to take off at a palisade and ditch, put down again in the ditch and headbutted the palisade. I led him back to Lizzie and said I was never riding her bloody horse ever again.

Nicolas Touzaint’s double European champion Galan De Sauvagere and Badminton winner Hildago De L’Ile are among previous Le Lion winners. Perhaps Cool Tide can live up those illustrious precedents this autumn.

Ref Horse & Hound; 4 July 2019