Mark Phillips: ‘Getting BE to agree to an extra day of competition is like pulling teeth’ *H&H VIP*

  • Four-star courses do not have a new designer very often — it’s not an easy job and the margin for error is very small. Part of the skill is in knowing the ground and how the different parts of the course ride.

    Therefore for Mike Etherington-Smith to be taking over from me at Luhmühlen, and Eric Winter replacing Giuseppe della Chiesa at Badminton is a major move in the four years leading up to Tokyo 2020. It will take them a little time to settle in.

    I’m sad to leave Luhmühlen after 10 years. I wish Mike luck as he strives for a good balance under the critical eye of the European mainstream media.

    Many were surprised at Eric Winter’s appointment at Badminton, but he is relatively local and knows the track well, having been closely involved with the organisation.

    He will benefit from Giuseppe’s greatest legacy, the loop up through the New Pond. Giuseppe brought some great ideas to Badminton, even if he found getting the overall balance less easy.

    Selection puzzler

    There are now only two big opportunities for riders to shine before Olympic selection, this week at Bramham and next at Luhmühlen.

    The five Brits chosen for Rio will be announced on 5 July, before Barbury, and don’t be surprised if you see many of them in the CIC2* there for a confidence boost.

    To me, this is the most open selection ever. The dilemma is that no one knows how strong a test Pierre Michelet has made the cross-country, therefore the relative influence of the phases. The selectors may gamble on one or two better dressage performers as recent history and the 2020 Agenda suggests that the track will be on the easier side. Having said that, Pierre has always been a law unto himself. Also, the ground will be fast and there is no real terrain. The final factor that we are not privy to is soundness and the veterinary input.

    Are you any the wiser? I’m just glad I’m not a selector!

    Early days for ERM

    The Event Rider Masters (ERM) series at Chatsworth got off to a positive start. Yes, there were problems with the live scoring, but glitches are inevitable as the ERM pushes the boundaries of presentation.

    At Gatcombe we’ve run the British Open cross-country in reverse order since 1985, so we know the hazards. At Chatsworth excessive speed led to near misses at the penultimate. With big money at stake, riders are tempted to fly in the latter stages, which runs an inherent risk.

    At Bramham the ERM class does not have a full field of 40, partly because performance manager Yogi Breisner wanted Rio contenders to showjump last, so they run in the CIC3*, and partly because some won’t want to go so fast again so soon.

    At Barbury we have moved the ERM start adjacent to the finish to help with the presentation. Hopefully someone has worked out how to avoid the razzmatazz that caused Kitty King issues at Chatsworth. There has to be a balance so competitors can actually get into the start box!

    British Eventing (BE) says it is “doing its best” to seek additional days of competition. My experience from talking to organisers has been the opposite — getting BE to agree to an extra day is like pulling teeth.

    Fixtures are still a major problem for BE. With luck this is at the top of chief executive David Holmes’ agenda.

    Ref: Horse & Hound; 9 June 2016