May 3, 2008

Mark Todd catches up with Tinks Pottinger and Erik Duvander.
© Jane Thompson

New Zealand eventing hero Mark Todd, now back in England to further his revived eventing career, called in at The Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials yesterday.

Eight years after his last competitive ride in Europe, Mark is back, with his horse Gandalf, to try and complete qualification to enable him to compete at this year's Olympic Games in Bejiing (Hong Kong).

The 52-year-old, who won here on three occasions - 1980 (Southern Comfort), 1994 (Horton Point) and 1996 (Bertie Blunt), retired from the sport in 2000 after the Sydney Olympics and went back to New Zealand. He became a successful racehorse trainer although recently cut back from training to concentrate on breeding and producing.

"Although I had been thinking about getting a horse to have a bit of fun with coming back to even thinking about competing at Olympic level was totally out of the blue," said the five-times Olympian. "It just happened when someone heard of a suitable horse which subsequently I liked and then passed the vet so I had to buy him."

Gandalf, a 10-year-old grey is a three-quarter bred, part stock horse, part paint horse by Pintado Desperado. Gandalf is out of the thoroughbred mare Princess of Power who has bred several event horses and was bought by Angela Lloyd as a yearling who then successfully produced him to three-star level.

This weekend "Toddy" will be taking Gandalf to Osberton Horse trials where he will also compete Eddie Stibbe's ride Dusky Moon. The intention is to take Gandalf to the three-star event in Saumur to try and qualify for Hong Kong. "I have no idea what the exact criteria are but to have a chance of selection we will have to do pretty well out there," said Toddy, who admits to being 'as enthusiastic as ever'.

"While the goal might be to get to the Olympics the challenge is to see if I can be competitive again. If it's not fun I'm not going to do it."