Graham Fletcher: ‘finance is vital to climb sport’s greasy pole’ *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    Since I commented earlier this year that the British team was short of top-class combinations, there have been two pieces of good news.

    First, William Whitaker is going really well on Joe Clee’s 2014 World Championships mount, the 13-year-old bay stallion Utamaro D’Ecaussines. In spite of all his ability, William had been short of horse power and slipped down the rankings. But this pair look full of genuine potential and I expect to see him climbing back up the list soon.

    The second is top young American rider Emily Moffitt’s decision to ride for Team GB. This talented rider was the only Brit to jump a clear in the recent Wellington Nations Cup; and she has the financial infrastructure behind her to keep finding top horses.

    Many people are involved in making a world-class horse, from the breeder to the producer. But once at top level, the rider needs the financial resources to keep it there.

    For all Scott Brash’s unique ability, he couldn’t have been world number one without Lords Harris and Kirkham’s support; Nick Skelton’s gold medal wouldn’t have been won without Gary Widdowson’s continual backing.

    The top trainer at this year’s Cheltenham Festival will have major funding behind them; a fortune has been spent on Lewis Hamilton’s Formula One car. I could go on, but you get the point…

    Many people still nostalgically long for the more even playing field of yesteryear. But those days are gone. Anyone wanting to get as far as possible up that greasy pole of sport must take off their blinkers and get real.

    Quids in

    Following Scott’s stunning win in the €500,000 (£434,500) Doha grand prix on Ursula XII earlier this month, I sent him a text saying: “Very well done. Can you lend me a few quid?!”

    “Yes,” he replied, “if you can find me another Ursula!”

    Redoing the ‘kitchen’

    The Great Yorkshire, where I was lucky enough to win the Cock o’ The North four times on four different horses, was always one of my favourite shows when I was riding. Nowadays I’m on the organising committee.

    After a few years in which the showjumping element took some backward steps, it’s been good to see a revival under chief executive Bill Cowling and his successor Charles Mills.

    Once again, top riders want to compete at the Great Yorkshire, and no wonder with prize money well ahead of any other county show, a beautiful arena and stands packed with enthusiastic crowds. One piece of the jigsaw had remained missing, however — the collecting ring.

    Being on a slope and heavily used throughout the show, the ground was impossible to get right. It was like a lovely house in gorgeous grounds, let down by a cheap and nasty kitchen.

    So I’m very pleased to report that, with help from course-designer Bob Ellis, the Great Yorkshire is putting in an Andrews Bowen all-weather collecting ring.

    It will be ready in time for the 2017 show, which also sees the comeback of a top junior class that was lost some years ago.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 16 March 2017