H&H eventing editor Pippa Roome: ‘I’m glad I’m not selecting the teams for Paris’


  • H&H eventing editor Pippa Roome reflects on Olympic selection dilemmas for the British and US teams

    Oh to have been a British team selector in the days when everyone went to Badminton Horse Trials and then perhaps a mandatory final trial. These days, with riders allowed to campaign as they feel best, it is very much comparing apples and oranges as we approach the Paris Olympics.

    Britain’s problem at this stage is an embarrassment of strong combinations – and woe betide the selectors if they get it “wrong” and the chosen ones come home from Paris without team gold.

    As I see it, Britain could field a “Kentucky team” (Oliver Townend on Cooley Rosalent, Tom McEwen on JL Dublin and Yasmin Ingham on Banzai Du Loir); a “four-star short team” (Ros Canter on Lordships Graffalo, Laura Collett on London 52 and Kitty King on Vendredi Biats), and a “Badminton team” (Oliver Townend on Ballaghmor Class, Ros Canter on Izilot DHI and either Tom Jackson on Capels Hollow Drift or David Doel on Galileo Nieuwmoed – or possibly Emily King on Valmy Biats).

    Any of those three trios could win in Paris and quite possibly Badminton will throw up a surprise too.

    Oliver’s Kentucky victory poses a very interesting dilemma – his 31.4 dressage mark doesn’t match the profile of horses the selectors will want to take to Paris, but… he won. And Cooley Rosalent did score 23.1 in the first phase at the Maryland CCI5* last autumn. It will be difficult to reconcile choosing Tom or Yasmin ahead of him.

    Perhaps it will be solved by Ballaghmor Class winning Badminton and getting the Olympic call-up – helping Oliver to the Rolex Grand Slam in the process.

    Badminton tips

    For me, Ballaghmor Class and Izilot DHI are a distance ahead in the Badminton ante-post betting market. Contrastingly, the former is vastly experienced, while the latter’s lack of mileage is his major weakness.

    Behind them is a group of contenders that includes the past two Burghley runners-up in Capels Hollow Drift and Galileo Nieuwmoed, the dodgy showjumper Vitali under Tim Price, Emily King – who is yet to complete Badminton but may well lead the dressage – on Valmy Biats.

    Then there’s the old US warhorse Tsetserleg TSF with Boyd Martin, who bids to become the second person to complete all the world’s five-stars (Tim is the first).

    I’d also include William Fox-Pitt on Grafennacht and perhaps his contemporary Pippa Funnell on MCS Maverick.

    I don’t like to rule out any five-star victor from winning another, so don’t forget Jonelle Price on Grappa Nera and Gemma Stevens on Chilli Knight, but both have had time off and are likely to be off the pace in the dressage.

    Data analytics company EquiRatings put Laura Collett’s ride Hester as fourth favourite, but I think their algorithms are too swayed by recent CCI4*-S form and she is probably too inexperienced to win.

    Joker in the pack

    The US too must grapple with multiple competitions in the Paris mix. The hot CCI4*-S at Kentucky ended with Will Coleman, Boyd Martin and Liz Halliday all piloting two horses into the top seven – and Liz also had the young Cooley Nutcracker in eighth in the five-star.

    In addition, Will has the talking horse Chin Tonic HS, if the injury that caused him not to run isn’t too severe. Similarly, Tamie Smith had to withdraw last year’s Kentucky five-star winner Mai Baum, but the selectors will surely want to put such a gilded dressage performer on that plane if he’s sound.

    There was some aggressive questioning of US riders about why they weren’t running at five-star at Kentucky. Caroline Pamukcu won that round when she pointed out Pan Am champion HSH Blake isn’t qualified for the level. Fifth in the CCI4*-S, he should nail a CCI4*-L qualification and so Olympic eligibility in the next few weeks.

    The real joker in the pack is Lauren Nicholson’s ride Vermiculus, the characterful, cheeky Anglo Arab who is 17 years old and has slightly mixed form – but finished fifth and best of the home side in the five-star.

    Frankly, I’m very glad I don’t have to select the British or US teams for this summer’s showdown.

    ● How would you go about selecting an Olympic eventing team? Write to us at hhletters@futurenet.com, including your name, nearest town and country, for the chance for your letter to appear in a forthcoming issue of the magazine

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 2 May

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