Mark Phillips: I’m not a lawyer, but how can Jock keep the Burghley title? [H&H VIP]

  • Watching 3 long days of cross-country at Belton last week brought back so many happy memories. I remember flying around the beautiful park over courses designed by Marjorie Comerford and built by Philip Herbert, dare I say it, nearly 40 years ago.

    This was the very best of the “one-day” sport in this country. To see so many top riders on wonderful horses cruising around on good footing, and coming home with a smile, was great.

    Organiser Stuart Buntine has done laudable work with the town of Grantham and Lincolnshire County Council. After a crowd of over 15,000 last year, this year it had to be over 20,000, which helped to produce the atmosphere our top pairs deserve.

    There is now so much pressure on the parking space that we must move the start of cross-country next year to allow for more cars. It won’t be easy, but what a nice problem to have!

    Mark Todd was on flying form, but it was also encouraging to see the next generation coming good: Emily Llewellyn, Emilie Chandler, Izzy Taylor, Dani Evans, Tom McEwen and Kitty King all caught my eye.

    How can Jock keep title?

    New Zealand’s chances at the World Equestrian Games [WEG] in August will be helped or hindered by the outcome of the Jock Paget tribunal, now provisionally booked for 30 April, the Wednesday after Kentucky.

    Thus even if Jock were to be found totally innocent, he would be unable to ride in his third leg of the Rolex Grand Slam. You can’t help but wonder if this is significant, as the delay in fixing a date for the tribunal has certainly not come from Jock. He had all his submissions and papers into the FEI by the date required.

    The big losers from the delay are the sport, which continues to have this cloud hanging over it, and Rolex, because its Grand Slam could be won by Andrew Nicholson this spring, but nobody will know until after the fact.

    Andrew has a great chance because this year, for the first time, there is a one-week gap between Kentucky and Badminton. Winning four-stars on back-to-back weekends has proved notoriously difficult.

    I know I am not a lawyer, but I don’t understand how Jock can keep his Burghley title. I always thought the FEI statutes stated clearly that if a horse tested positive for a banned substance — and I don’t believe this was contested once the B sample came back positive last autumn — it is automatic that the horse gets disqualified from that competition.

    I don’t understand on what grounds the tribunal could overturn one of the FEI’s own statutes. I thought it only determined if there should be further punishment on top of the six months of personal anguish already suffered by Jock.

    Experience being ignored

    I was also disappointed to get an email last week from Catrin Norinder on behalf of the FEI eventing committee.

    For some years now, the world’s four-star course-designers have met in December, with the major national coaches, plus a senior rider.

    The group has unrivalled experience in eventing. The discussion is open, forward-thinking and produces considered rational thinking for the future direction of the sport. Our recommendations this year included scrapping CCIs at one- and two-star level in favour of a wider range of educational CICs and bringing in two levels of CIC3* to split standard and flagship contests.

    It’s sad therefore when those recommendations get swept aside by a small committee and the group as a whole gets addressed as merely course-designers. Once again the FEI scores a big miss.

    Support our teams

    The British Equestrian Federation Fund, formerly known as the British Equestrian Olympic Fund, is to benefit from fundraising at Badminton. This is particularly important in this WEG year, as vaulting, reining, driving and endurance get no Lottery funding.

    On Badminton’s Friday night, Rosemary Barlow is hosting a dinner in the Horse Trials Support Group Tent. Book soon to avoid disappointment (rosie.barlow1@btinternet.com).