Mark Phillips: Why I’m a proud dad this week *H&H VIP*

  • Opinion

    I always planned to be at Kentucky to see Derek di Grazia’s cross-country course. If you are going to keep up in sport, you need to know what is happening around the world and Derek is our next Olympic designer in 2020. That my daughter Zara Tindall was riding was a real bonus.

    Many riders had told Zara the course was easier than in previous years, but we couldn’t see that. This year’s track was one of the most intelligently thought through I’ve ever seen.

    The flow was good, it required extreme accuracy and the placing of the questions was very clever. Lucinda Green kindly praised Zara’s seat-of-the-pants, attacking style, but much thought had gone into the approaches and landing placements for her to execute the plan. The point and kick days are long gone at the top end.

    I know you’re not supposed to talk about your children, but I could not help being a proud dad. Zara has not had the best winter, but there are not many around that ride better under pressure.

    It’s not always been the case, but these days she is a great competitor and her third was great compensation for her trip here two years ago, when High Kingdom was injured in the stable before dressage.

    Zara had always planned to go to Badminton, but when she was 35th on the wait-list, Land Rover and Rolex helped her get to Kentucky. How richly their faith was rewarded — it’s just sad British fans were denied seeing these medal winners in action on home soil.

    Jung’s next Rolex grand slam?

    As ever it was a pleasure to watch Michael Jung at work, even if his cross-country looked a little ragged at times. You have the feeling he already has his next Rolex Grand Slam planned out.

    Maxime Livio on Qalao Des Mers was probably the star performer. He paid heavily for his flying change lapses to finish less than two marks behind Michael. He was the only person, apart from Zara, to finish on his dressage score.

    Clark Montgomery promised much after heading the dressage but, like Tim Price with Ringwood Sky Boy, found his horse starting to tire after the seven-minute marker and had the dreaded glance-off at the water.

    It was sad not to see more British riders in Kentucky. But with no support from the World Class programme this year, I understand the trip is less financially viable than previously, which will be emphasised as the FEI Classics money is apparently ending.

    I advise Chris Bartle and his high performance team to be sure to understand how Derek di Grazia thinks, because every nation will need to solve that puzzle with three riders in a team in 2020. And what I learnt last weekend will be in my mind when I set the World Equestrian Games 2018 course in Tryon in three weeks’ time!

    All thoughts now are on Badminton. I’ve seen the course and this is a real Badminton with lots to jump. A third of the Kentucky track was forgiving brush. Riders this weekend do not have that luxury. Can anyone beat Michael and Sam? I can’t wait to find out.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 4 May 2017