OPINION

There are few surprises on the long-list for the British eventing team for the World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Tryon in September. As long-lists go, it’s pretty long — 15 combinations (11 riders, with Ros Canter and Piggy French named with two horses and Oliver Townend with three). This is the number who can be nominated to the FEI in mid-August — if you’re not on that list, you cannot then be among the final squad. The reality, though, is that only one third of these pairs will actually go to WEG (it’s a five-strong squad — a team of four and one individual).

My feeling at this stage is that Ros Canter and Oliver Townend are pretty certain of a team berth. Ros and Allstar B have such excellent form since the start of 2017 that a ticket to Tryon seems guaranteed, unless one of them suffers an injury. I’m not sure if Zenshera would be an automatic replacement, should anything befall Allstar B — he’s had good results but in less competitive fields than his stable-mate. Let’s hope we don’t have to find out.

Oliver has been a controversial figure this spring, but calls for him to be banned from the British squad on account of his warning for over-use of the whip at Badminton are pointless, wherever you stand on the incident. He is available to ride on the team and has the best form of any Brit this spring; the selectors’ job is to choose the strongest possible team and I certainly expect it to include Oliver. I don’t know which way they will jump in terms of horse choice — Kentucky winner Cooley Master Class, last year’s Burghley victor Ballaghmor Class or Badminton runner-up Cooley SRS? Whatever way, I expect him to be named with at least one direct reserve horse.

After these two, things are a bit less certain, but I think Tom McEwen has a strong chance after top-12 finishes and double clears at two Badmintons and one Burghley with Toledo De Kerser.

Nicola Wilson and Tina Cook looked like shoe-ins for the team after their brilliant performances at last year’s Europeans, but neither have had a straightforward spring and both must still prove their form to win their place.

Nicola, who has had a knee injury, pulled Bulana out of Bramham when she was leading the CIC3* after two phases because she was heading to Luhmühlen the following week, but ended up retiring across country there after run-outs. She is entered for Barbury CIC3* next weekend (5-8 July) and Nicola will need to prove she has the mare under the thumb again there — her tendency as a young horse to be strong across country seems to have resurfaced this year.

Billy The Red takes on the Event Rider Masters (ERM) at Barbury — he has only run in an open intermediate since falling at Burnham Market in the spring (which Tina says was rider error), an accident which left Tina with a dislocated collarbone and led to her missing Badminton. He was unable to contain himself in his halts in the dressage at Luhmühlen, although his other work was good, and given his uncompetitive position and the firm ground, Tina decided to withdraw him before the cross-country.

Laura Collett and Mr Bass were stellar to finish second at Luhmühlen but it was the horse’s first four-star — the selectors will have to balance how much they want to see a backlog of form against one really outstanding performance (although the pair also have good three-star results). Similarly Kitty King and Ceylor LAN went very well to finish fourth, but it was Ceylor LAN’s first CCI since the Rio Olympics.

Some will be surprised to see Gemma Tattersall named with Arctic Soul rather than one of her other horses, but Quicklook V hasn’t run since being declared on the injury bench pre-Chatsworth and Chico Bella P is too fragile to be a championship horse. Pamero 4 is on the reserve list but he and Gemma are still quite a new combination and he’s a tricky horse to manage and keep weight on, so it could be difficult to produce him in peak condition after the long flight to the US. With the change to the dressage scoring this year, Arctic Soul could be a handy team member, perhaps in the pathfinder spot.

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I have to admit I’d rather written off Vanir Kamira when she fell at Badminton and then didn’t reappear in competition, but the Burghley runner-up must be expected to make an appearance somewhere soon with Piggy French. A good run would certainly put her in contention. And then there’s Quarrycrest Echo — the Chatsworth ERM winner who was denied a good placing at Luhmühlen when a flag decision went against him. At present, I’d put his chances above the mare’s, but that could change.

Reve Du Rouet’s second at Pau last year was a breakthrough result for Sarah Bullimore and he followed up with a solid Badminton in 18th, an impressive ninth four-star completion. Harry Meade and Away Cruising have three top-20 four-star results to their names, with cross-country reliability to the fore. These pairs are a little less high-profile than some others on the list, but they could be useful contributors if called up.

The British team for the crack CIC3* at Aachen (17-22 July) has not yet been announced and it will be interesting to see who is chosen — aside from Barbury, this provides the other high-profile outing for potential WEG squad members ahead of the selected five being named in early August.

In this week’s Horse & Hound magazine, out on Thursday 28 June 2018, don’t miss our full report from the Hickstead Derby meeting, including all the showjumping and showing action, plus don’t miss our six-page report from Royal Ascot.

We also have a feature on the much discussed whip rules across the disciplines and in this week’s ‘Vet clinic’ we find out how to spot the signs of sand colic.