Former international showjumper and highly respected trainer, breeder and producer of young horses, Graham Fletcher, looks forward to the Tokyo Games and under-21 European championships
OUR Olympic showjumping team has been announced, and we now know who will be representing Great Britain in Tokyo. I think it’s a very strong squad.
Ben Maher and Explosion W must be one of the favourites for an individual Olympic gold medal. At this level, you need a top horse with a top rider. Ben and Explosion W more than match those criteria as they most recently showed when winning the Rolex grand prix at Royal Windsor in superb fashion.
Holly Smith is one of the best lady riders in the world. And to fight her way back after tragically losing her best horse Hearts Destiny last year is a great achievement. Her relatively inexperienced ride Denver will play an important part in the team.
Harry Charles, who has been named reserve, is really talented and super cool under pressure. I would have no concerns if he’s called on to ride in Tokyo as he’ll definitely do the job.
BRITAIN’S youth squads for the European Championships in Vilamoura, Portugal, which starts this week (18–25 July), have also been chosen.
Our young riders’ team is undoubtedly favourite for a team gold. In fact, it’s one of the best squads in that category that this country has produced.
As for individual medals, I wouldn’t like to pick out any one of them. Jodie Hall-McAteer and Jack Whitaker have both produced some great results this season at five-star level.
Sienna Charles is a great little jockey who’ll be partnering John Whitaker’s former Olympic ride Ornellaia, while Lily Freeman-Atwood is already a prolific winner at international level.
I was very pleased with my son Olli’s inclusion in the junior squad with Lady Harris and Lady Kirkham’s Hello William, a horse I think an awful lot of.
And it’s very rewarding to see another rider selected from our yard. Lila Bremner will ride the lovely jumper Memphis V/D Vaart. We sourced the horse from Max Routledge as a seven-year-old, and Lila’s since done a very good job of producing him with my wife Tina’s help.
What a man
WHEN Olli told us last year that he was going to Switzerland for a time to train with his favourite rider Steve Guerdat, I reminded him of how fortunate he was. And that’s because, in my opinion, Steve is the best of his generation.
As we arrived at Windsor, Olli told me that Steve was flying over especially for the €500,000 (£428,000) Rolex grand prix. But before that, added Olli, Steve was going to be there to help him before he rode in the under-25s.
“But the class is on at 8am, it will be pouring with rain and Steve has far more important things on his mind than the under-25s,” I warned Olli.
But, sure enough, Steve was there on the dot to help Olli, who went on to jump two clears including a polished jump-off round. By all accounts, Steve had stressed to him the importance of angles on the turns. And his advice paid off, Olli finishing just less than a second behind the ultra-fast Lily Freeman-Atwood.
Later that afternoon, Steve was runner-up in the grand prix with Venard De Cerisy. He’d been within fractions of a second of winning. On my drive home, I couldn’t help but think: “What a jockey and what a man.”
This column is also available to read in this Thursday’s Horse & Hound magazine, on sale 15 July
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