Mark Phillips: Staying ahead of the game *H&H VIP*


  • In staying ahead of the game in the world of course design, I visit as many courses as I can to see what others are doing. Kentucky — designed by Tokyo 2020 designer Derek di Grazia — and Badminton, designed by Eric Winter, were very different to each other but definitely CCI5* on technical difficulty. It is important these differences exist as riders can get used to jumping one designer’s courses.

    These past two weeks I’ve been to see Ian Stark’s CCI4* at Bramham and Mike Etherington-Smith’s CCI5* at Luhmühlen. Again, they were very different.

    Ian’s track was big and slightly old-fashioned. It certainly had some “four-star plus” in it and some of the fences would not have looked out of place at Badminton. It definitely caught the attention of the riders, where only 20 of the 60 starters were jumped clear. Luhmühlen was much more similar to Kentucky, but without some of the very acute angles we saw there.

    In truth, all the courses did an excellent job, although we are seeing more frangible devices being broken. This in part is due to the MIM clip breaking more easily under horizontal pressure than the pin system. I just hope that the frangible fences are getting the same respect from riders as the more solid ones. It would be a sad day if we see the standard of riding drop as a result of trying to make the sport safer.

    In the same token, designers cannot justify the difficulty or size of a fence because it’s a frangible; we’ve seen one or two instances of that this year.

    Brits on form

    At Bramham, I was thrilled for Kitty King. After her horrible weekend at Badminton, she started out a little tentatively with Vendredi Biats, but the further she went, the better she went, and no one would begrudge her victory.

    Gemma Tattersall is back on fire and looked impressive on both Jalapeño III and Chilli Knight, then blew away a strong field on Santiago Bay at Bolesworth.

    At Luhmühlen, the Brits also had a good day, even though Tim Price won it with a peerless performance on Ascona M. Tom McEwen, second, did an excellent job on Figaro Van Het Broekxhof, and Alexander Bragg and Sarah Bullimore have Zagreb and Reve Du Rouet back to their best. None of them did their chances of selection for the Europeans in August, any harm.

    It was sad that so many of the German riders chose to use the CCI4*-S competition as their preparation for the Europeans, instead of the CCI5*. However, with Julia Krajewski, Ingrid Klimke and Dirk Schrade all putting up impressive performances, they will still be hard to beat on home soil.

    Unbelievably, the only one to have a bad day was Michael Jung. He fell early on with his first horse and was very lucky not to fall in the water on his last. Only Highlighter looked good, but completed Michael’s uncharacteristic weekend with two down on the Sunday. All being well, he will have new ride Chipmunk for the Europeans and that will be a different story.

    My next stop will be Barbury in July. All will be eager to see what Alec Lochore has done with the lovely venue in his first year there as organiser and course-designer.

    Ref Horse & Hound; 20 June 2019