Mark Phillips: Bramham and Luhmühlen – plus and minus on the star levels


  • Mark Phillips reflects on the issues thrown up at Bramham and Luhmühlen

    I FINALLY managed to have a month on this side of the Atlantic in June and was lucky enough to be at Bramham and Luhmühlen. I didn’t, though, escape the travel woes – with two flights cancelled, I finished up flying to Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport and catching a train home.

    The two events provided an interesting contrast. Ian Stark’s Bramham, with all its terrain, was “four-star plus”, while Mike Etherington-Smith’s Luhmühlen was “five-star minus”. It’s a moot point which was the most difficult course. Riders at both were happy, though, as they were expecting a typical Scotty course in Yorkshire and a softer five-star in Continental Europe.

    I know Ian felt slightly battered after Bramham, but the course-designer shouldn’t carry the full responsibility for the track.

    I was surprised more of a constructive, collaborative discussion between him and the FEI officials on site didn’t lead to some tweaks to fence seven in advance. It was clear to me walking the course that the combination had too much potential downside, if riders did not get the shot they needed on the approach.

    The complex ended up being taken out after the accident that led to one horse being put down, plus two riders being unseated here. I hope that Ian keeps his nerve and carries on producing those big, bold fences that riders love and which buck the trend of the modern frangible era.

    In the end, the cream rose to the top at Bramham with Monkeying Around coming of age over a real track in the hands of a determined Izzy Taylor, and Pencos Crown Jewel and Ros Canter getting better and better to finish close behind.

    I love to see athletes turn fortunes around. Having suffered the disappointment of walking home at Badminton, Kirsty Chabert went “back to school” with the Chris Bartle/Dickie Waygood regime to be third at Bramham with Opposition Loire and second at Luhmühlen with Classic VI. You will hear more of Kirsty if she maintains this attitude.

    Aachen for Germany’s A team

    MUCH was made of the dog on an extendable lead at Luhmühlen and Tom McEwen’s fall close to home on Bob Chaplin. I watched the video many times. I suspect Tom saw the dog out of his peripheral vision as he turned to the fence, and the distraction to him rather than to the horse meant he finished up on the wrong line. I agree this was unfortunate as Bob Chaplin was, after a sticky start, going better and better in Tom’s super-talented hands.

    Tom will doubtless be more focused as he takes Toledo De Kerser to Aachen this week, for Aachen has many distractions.

    He heads up a strong British team with Ros Canter (Allstar B), William Fox-Pitt (Little Fire) and Sarah Bullimore (Corouet), all endeavouring to lay down their credentials for the eventing World Championships in Pratoni in September, along with Yasmin Ingham getting valuable experience among the array of talent on show at Aachen.

    Germany have their strongest line-up with Michael Jung on FischerChipmunk FRH, Julia Krajewski on her Olympic champion Amande De B’Neville, Ingrid Klimke (Equistros Siena Just Do It) and Sandra Auffarth (Viamant Du Matz) making up their team. In addition, Andrew Hoy brings forward his Olympic bronze medal-winning horse, Vassily De Lassos.

    I don’t understand the fact that Aachen is more important to German riders than their own five-star and national championship CCI4*-S at Luhmühlen. They only had one rider, Sophie Leube, in the five-star and she retired at fence seven. I’m not sure if this is a scheduling issue, but certainly Luhmühlen and Pau are not regarded with the same aura as Badminton and Burghley.

    A first stage

    I WAS delighted to see the Go BE initiative launched, which allows those who are not members of British Eventing (BE) to avail themselves of BE’s gold-standard facilities at the 80cm, 90cm and 100cm levels for just a £10 run charge. Members too can compete, with no £10 fee, and no recorded results for their young, unregistered horses.

    This surely must be the first stage to helping keep numbers up for BE organisers, while stemming the flow of entries to unaffiliated events. July sees a modest roll-out of this programme and hopefully it will be more widespread in the months to come.

    • This exclusive column will also be available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 30 June

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