The Rio Olympics cross-country starts in just 90 minutes as I sit in the press tent at the venue at Deodoro, writing this.
Everyone is saying it’s a tough course — the most difficult Olympic course since Sydney in 2000, said experienced German rider Ingrid Klimke.
The New Zealanders say they are glad they brought four horses with four-star experience, so ahead of the action I thought it’d be interesting to analyse which of the other teams in the top seven after dressage can boast that.
The three numbers below after each pair indicate number of four-stars started/completed/won as a combination.
1st after dressage: Germany
Sandra Auffarth and Opgun Louvo 4/4/1
Michael Jung and Sam FBW 8/8/5
Julia Krajewski and Samourai Du Thot 1/1/0
Ingrid Klimke and Hale Bob OLD 3/3/1
2nd after dressage: France
Astier Nicolas and Piaf De B’Neville 2/2/1
Karim Laghouag and Entebbe 1/1/0
Thibaut Vallette and Qing Du Briot 0/0/0
Mathieu Lemoine and Bart L 0/0/0
3rd after dressage: Australia
Sam Griffiths and Paulank Brockagh 7/7/1
Chris Burton and Santano II 0/0/0
Stuart Tinney and Pluto Mio 5/1/0
Shane Rose and CP Qualified 3/2/1
4th after dressage: Great Britain
Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V 0/0/0
William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning 4/3/1
Pippa Funnell and Billy The Biz 0/0/0
Kitty King and Ceylor LAN 0/0/0
5th after dressage: Ireland
Padraig McCarthy and Simon Porloe 0/0/0
Clare Abbott and Euro Prince 4/3/0
Jonty Evans and Cooley Rorkes Drift 0/0/0
Mark Kyle and Jemilla 0/0/0
6th equal after dressage: New Zealand
Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy 7/5/0
Mark Todd and Leonidas II 5/4/0
Clarke Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation 2/2/0
Jonelle Price and Faerie Dianimo 3/2/0
6th equal after dressage: USA
Boyd Martin and Blackfoot Mystery 1/1/0
Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen 3/1/0
Lauren Kieffer and Veronica 4/3/0
Phillip Dutton and Mighty Nice 6/3/0
It’s clear the mighty Germans are leading the way on mileage — all their horses have four-star experience and three of them have won at least one of them. What’s more, they have a perfect completion record — none of their pairs have ever started a four-star they haven’t finished.
New Zealand and the USA, currently equal sixth, are the other teams whose horses have all competed at four-star, although their completion/win stats are less impressive.
Ireland and Great Britain have the least experienced teams when analysed this way — both field three horses which have never started a four-star.
France has two pairs with four-star mileage — and one win — and Australia three. The interesting thing about the Australian situation is that their inexperienced pair are their best performers after dressage by quite a distance (Chris Burton and Santano II).
Of course, numbers only tell half the story — a number of the horses listed have a string of top-six four-star results without ever having a win. Some of the non-completions are down to a withdrawal after dressage rather than a more sinister fault. And ultimately, experience is only part of the equation — the innate skill and talent, as well as training at home, of horses and riders will count for a huge amount today.
I’m off to the mixed zone in a few minutes — it’s at the cross-country finish and we’ll be able to chat to riders as they complete. I’ll be bringing you some of their comments on our H&H Live service, so make sure you join in — you can add your thoughts, too.
See you on the other side.