Eventing is a sport with three distinct phases, so it only seems appropriate in considering which horses and riders have a shot at individual gold, to consider each of them carefully.
Eventing should never be a dressage competition – and it certainly isn’t at the 4* level.
That said, it doesn’t matter how quickly a horse can gallop cross country or how many inches he can put between this hooves and the coloured sticks – the first two days of competition at any big event are a pair’s only opportunity to set themselves up for success with as few penalty points as possible.
Here is a round-up of the 25 riders who I think are likely to land themselves in the hunt for individual gold after dressage.
- Michael Jung and La Biosthetique Sam. In the fall of 2010, Jung and Sam produced a fabulous test at WEG and moved on from dressage with only 33 pp. Sam also scored a 33.3 at the European Championships last year, and even manage to squeak into the 20s with a 29.1 at Marbach this spring in the CIC3*. His most recent outing at Aachen wasn’t quite as spectacular – their test earned them 38 pp. That said, he is still one of the relatively few horses in the world that can break into the 30s at the 3* and 4* levels.
- Jung’s teammate, Sandra Auffarth, also has a horse that is more than capable of breaking into the 30s in London. In Opgun Louvo’s 4* debut last year at Luhmuhlen, this pair managed a 39. He has even improved since then; this pair has produced tests worthy of scores in the low to mid-30s in 5 of their last 6 events at the 3* level.
- Ingrid Klimke and FRH Butts Abrazzas are another pair that can really deliver on the flat. They have competed three times this year – with scores between 25.8 and 39.2 – and put together a reportedly stunning test at the European Championships last year. She set out on cross-country with a 30!
- Dirk Schrade and King Artus are another formidable pair in the dressage ring. They managed a sub-40 score at a 3* earlier this year, but are more likely to finish the first phase with a score in the low 40s.
- Chris Burton and HP Leilani are unlikely to be in the top ten after dressage at London, but with a good test, they will be within spitting distance. Leilani suffers from lack of consistency in this phase, but she has managed tests as competitive as 43pp (Pau 2011) and 45 (Adelaide 2009) at the 4* level.
- Clayton Fredericks has an impressive string, and the young Bendigo has been selected specifically to give Clayton a shot at gold. In twelve starts at the 3* and 4* levels, he hasn’t scored higher than 44.4 (his debut 3* event) and has scored as low as 34.6 (Burnham Market 2012). He has actually scored in the 30s at 4 of his 5 FEI starts in 2012 (all at the 3* level).
- There must be something in the water at the Fredericks’ yard, because Lucinda Fredericks and Flying Finish have a strong dressage record this year as well. At Luhmuhlen, the pair managed a very impressive 31.8. I would like to note, however, that many of the Luhmuhlen competitors this year managed personal bests, so the scoring may have been a bit generous. As a result, I wouldn’t expect to see a score that good from this pair later this weekend, though I think a high 30s/low 40s score is reasonable and they will be quite competitive. Flying Finish scored a 40.1 at Houghton Hall in the CICO3* earlier this year and a 44.6 at Fontainebleau in the 3*.
- Tina Cook and Miner’s Frolic are certainly capable breaking into the 30s at the 3* level – they did so in 2009/2010. More recently, however, this experienced 4* pair tends to manage a score in the low to mid 40s (49 at Barbury 2012, 42.6 at Branham 2012, 46.2 at Belton 2012).
- William Fox-Pitt is generally expected to seriously challenge his fellow competitors for gold in 2012. While his original pick for London, Oslo, would have given him a better foothold for that campaign, Lionheart should be able to manage a low-40s score, as he did Burnham Market in April (42.1). In his only 4* competition at Pau in 2011, Lionheart scored a 46.7, but Fox-Pitt should be able to better that by a few marks.
- Mary King‘s horse Imperial Cavalier is quite lovely, and while she won’t find herself an obvious contender for an individual medal after dressage, with a bit of luck, they will manage a test that puts her in a good position going forward. Imperial Cavalier does occasionally manage a test in the upper 30s (38.8 at the European Championships in 2011, 39.8 at Belton 2011), but he is more likely to deliver something in the low 40s.
- Zara Phillips has really worked at High Kingdom’s dressage scores this year. She managed a 43.2 at Bramham and an impressive 44.2 at Barbury where many a horse scored much lower than usual. She may just manage to shave off a few more points this weekend under her grandmother’s watchful eye!
The Kiwis (err, New Zealanders)
- Andrew Nicholson will be seeking an individual medal this year, and while I would never bet against him, he and Nereo must be hoping for a personal best to really set them up for a top showing. Nereo is quite consistent, and shouldn’t score above a 43 or 44. That said, he has never scored below a 42 at the 3* or 4* level. His personal best was a 42 at Bramham in 2012 in the CIC3*.
- Caroline Powell has brought the experienced Lenamore to London. He won Burghley on his dressage score of 38.7 in 2010 and the Kiwis are hoping he can put in a similar performance. More recently, they put in a lovely test for a 42.8 at Burghley last year.
- Mark Todd and NZB Campino will be the last to compete, and are hoping to start the competition with a score like the one they earned at Houghton Hall CICO3* in 2012 – a 36.3. Lightly competed, Campino usually scores in the mid to low 40s.
- Tiana Coudray and Ringwood Magister make a stunning pair, and have certainly impressed the judges at Saumur earlier this year where they earned a 41.4. Back home in the US, Ringwood Magister even managed a 36.8 at Fairhill in 2010. There are a number of high 40s/low 50s in this pair’s recent past, however. Tiana will need ride her best to manage a top placing after dressage in a field this competitive.
- Phillip Dutton and Mystery Whisper have only been together since late 2011, but have put forth solid dressage performances in each of their outings. With a 27.9 at the CIC in Florida earlier this year, and a 32.6 at Jersey Fresh, its easy enough to forgive the 48 at Barbury.
- Karen O’Connor and Mr. Medicott aren’t likely to be in the top group after dressage, especially given their 52.4 at Barbury a few weeks ago. That said, she has worked hard on her new ride’s dressage and may ultimately be able to generate a score in the very low 40s. She managed a 44.2 at Kentucky in 2012 and a 43 at the CIC3* at Bromont earlier this year.
- Karin Donckers has been competing Gazelle de la Brasserie at the 4* level since 2006. In two of their most recent outings at the 4* level, they managed a 38.8 at WEG in 2010 and a 44.7 at Badminton in 2010. While Gazelle de la Brasserie did not compete in 2011, they appeared to be on form in April in Italy where they scored a 40.2 in the CCI3*.
- Niklas Lindback and Mister Pooh appear to be on form. They scored a 39.5 at WEG in 2010, but hadn’t managed to best that until earlier this year in the 3* in Luhmuhlen when they earned a 37.2.
- Sara Algotsson Ostholt and Wega have neve attempted a 4*, but scored an impressive 34 at Luhmuhlen in 2012 in the CIC3*, and a 36 at the European Championships in 2011.
- Much like HP Leilani and Burton, Aoife Clark and Master Crusoe struggle to remain consistent in this phase. Master Crusoe is quite capable of scoring 42 pp at the 3* and 4* level (Badminton 2011, Belton 2011), but also veers into the low 50s at times (Barbury 2012, Barbury 2011).
- Yoshiaki Oiwa and Noonday de Conde have no doubt been hard at work this year to try and put together a sub-40 test in London. They managed this once at the 3* level in 2011, but more recent competitions have seen them range from 42 to 50.6.
- Kenki Satohas has had a strong 2012. His horse Chippieh has finished the dressage phases at three 3* competitions this year with a score under 39.
- Nicolas Touzaint and Hildalgo de L’ile certainly have the ability to put in a winning ride – they won Badminton in 2008, and scored a 39.6 in dressage. The horse has competed sparingly since then, and didn’t seem quite on form at Pau last fall where he scored a 46.3. That said, the potential for a competitive test certainly exists.
- If you are based in North America and didn’t make it to WEG in 2010, you missed your opportunity to see what is, in my view, one of the nicest horses in Eventing. Stefano Brecciaroli‘s mount Apollo VD Wendi Kurt Hoeve simply oozes class. This pair broke into the 30s at WEG for the first time with a 35.5 (their one and only 4*) and haven’t racked up more than 37.5 pp in that phase since. I’d expect to see this horse near the top of the leaderboard on Sunday evening.
Of course, just about anything can happen at the Olympics.
DISCLAIMER – I have no doubt overlooked someone and/or make some errors in the above information. For that, I apologize!
*** Eventing begins today at 10:00 local UK time, 5:00 AM Eastern. Boyd Martin and Otis Barbotiere are the first pair to ride.