British eventers to do battle at WEG: H&H’s analysis [H&H VIP]

  • Despite Badminton’s tough cross-country course throwing up some surprise contenders, the eventing squad chosen for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games features fewer new faces than expected.

    teamTeammates William Fox-Pitt, Pippa Funnell and Tina Cook — who first competed at a senior championship together at the Europeans in 1997 (pictured right) — are reunited.

    William has been selected on Bramham CIC3* winner Chilli Morning, while Tina and Pippa will both be competing on home-breds — De Novo News (pictured below left) and Billy Beware.

    de novo news2“He is so cool to ride and I am really proud of him,” said Tina, who retired her Olympic partner Miners Frolic due to atrial fibrillation earlier this year.

    “To have produced another horse to team level is great.”

    Pippa added: “It’s a thrill for me to be selected on a home-bred horse, especially as he is the first of the Billy Stud horses to be chosen for the British senior squad in eventing.”

    Zara PhillipsZara Phillips has also got the nod with her Olympic ride High Kingdom (pictured right), the only equine member of GBR’s Olympic eventing team still competing at the top level. Zara has not taken part in a 3-day since giving birth in January.

    “We’ve got a bit of work still to do to get back to where we were last year,” Zara admitted. “But we will have a few more outings to make sure we are right on target.”

    Izzy Taylor, who made her senior squad debut at the Europeans last year, has been selected on her Tattersalls CCI3* winner Allercombe Ellie.

    Perhaps the most surprising call-up is for Oliver Townend on the relatively unknown Black Tie II (pictured top), after the pair finished 4th at Luhmühlen.

    “It was just a huge turn of fate,” Oliver told H&H.

    The 13-year-old Black Tie — owned by Karyn Shuter — was originally meant to run at Saumur, but was rerouted to “have a go” at Luhmühlen.

    There was speculation that Oliver would be selected on this year’s Badminton runner-up Armada.

    “Armada is very consistent now,” Oliver said. “But I have 2 horses that are great at that level so I am not worried. I am just glad that I am going.”

    Oliver last represented Britain at the 2009 Europeans.

    “I have sold a lot of good horses who could have potentially been team horses since then,” he said.

    The BEF will not announce the reserves until after the nominated entry date (21 July).

    H&H’s eventing editor Pippa Roome’s thoughts

    I’m surprised not to see either Harry Meade or Gemma Tattersall named — it’s funny to have no squad debutants when this looked like a year for new faces. That said, four of the six horses will be at their first championship, so maybe the selectors felt they needed to balance that with rider experience.

    I wonder if part of the clue is in the quote from chef de mission Will Connell, which was on the press release. He emphasised that achieving qualification for 2016 — that is, finishing in the top six teams at WEG — is the “primary objective of the selection policy”. Maybe this meant the selectors thought they should go for known riders, rather than take risks.

    Also, don’t forget that in the past decade there has only been one year when the British have not had to call on a reserve. Harry and Gemma have both tweeted they are reserves and, while no one wants those selected to suffer injury, statistically there is a 90% chance that one of them will go to WEG.

    Looking ahead, Germany will definitely be favourites, their efforts spearheaded by Michael Jung. New Zealand are also strong; Australia and the USA have good chances, as does France. The Netherlands and Belgium could be the dark horses.