Top British riders question Scott Brash’s absence from Europeans *H&H VIP*

  • Britain’s top riders have criticised Scott Brash’s decision to withdraw his two top horses from potential European selection.

    The world number one rider was a notable absentee from the British team for the FEI European Showjumping Championships when the list was revealed on Monday (10 August).

    It was then revealed that not only had Scott pulled Hello Sanctos from team selection, he had also made Hello M’Lady unavailable also.

    “The decision was taken by Scott and his owners, Lady Kirkham and Lady Harris, as they felt the horse was still too inexperienced for the environment of the Aachen stadium,” said British Equestrian Federation performance director Dan Hughes, adding that it was “regrettable”.

    Owner Lord Harris told H&H that the mare was “still young”.

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    “After jumping at Dublin we could see she was not ready for the Europeans yet, she needs 10 or 12 more grands prix,” he added. “She needs more time. It’s obviously disappointing for everyone, but there are other years.”

    However, with Rio 2016 in mind riders are confused why the horses would be withdrawn.

    “I think given that Scott’s in the enviable position that he is, it’s sad that he isn’t making one of his horses available to support the team,” said 2012 gold medallist Peter Charles.

    “There’s a great array of young talent in the sport and funding depends on the Olympics. When you are a rider on a team you have the responsibility for the whole country.

    “This is important for qualification and puts weight on inexperienced horse and rider combinations.

    “I think Scott underestimates how much he’s needed. He’s one of the best we’ve ever had and he will be missed. He secured owners for the Olympics and the horses were bought for that. Not to be part of that is strange.”

    The Europeans are the final chance to qualify for next year’s Olympics, after poor performances at last year’s World Equestrian Games.

    To do so they must finish in the top three of non-qualified nations. The Netherlands, France, Germany and Sweden have already qualified but Team GBR face stiff competition in the form of Ireland, Belgium and Switzerland.

    H&H columnist William Funnell added: “Lord Harris said he would buy horses to help Britain win medals, so it’s a surprise to see neither of Scott’s top two horses on the team.

    “M’Lady might be inexperienced but having the world number one rider makes up for that. It’s bad for the sport if the reigning gold medallists don’t qualify for Rio.”

    If the team do not qualify, there is still a chance to qualify as an individual via the world rankings.

    Last month Scott told H&H it was not in Sanctos’ “best interests” to contest both the Europeans and the final leg of the Rolex Grand Slam in Calgary (9-13 September) — where the pair stand to win a €1million (£710,000) bonus. Just turning up secures them €500,000.

    “I think it’s very disappointing. We’ve got such a talent in Scott and his horses, we’d like to have him fighting for the team,” said Tim Stockdale.

    “My feeling is it’s a great honour riding for your country and, in truth, riding at a championship is everything we aspire to.

    “I understand his predicament but certain competitions go beyond monetary value.

    “I’m not so sure he is going to win in Calgary and the sport is a bigger priority. Aachen is in the DNA of the sport and we should be taking the money side out and competing for honour.”

    John Whitaker said it was a “great pity”.

    “Hello M’Lady has proved herself a few times this year,” he said. “We should be fielding our best team. But I think if things go well we’ll still be alright for Rio. We have to stay positive.”

    However team member Michael Whitaker said he’s feeling confident heading to Aachen.

    “All the horses have been on good form,” he said.

    We have five fighters going forward and there isn’t one that you wouldn’t want on your side.”

    Ref: H&H 13 August 2015