Olympic plans revised after Badminton’s cancellation

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William Fox-Pitt and Parklane Hawk
William Fox-Pitt and Parklane Hawk, winners of the Kentucky Three-Day-Event last weekend.

Eventers in the frame for the London Olympics are revisiting their preparations following yesterday’s cancellation of the Badminton Horse Trials.

The cancellation was forced on organisers following rain which delivered the wettest April in Britain in a century.

The trials were scheduled to start late this week, with several Olympic prospects eventing intending to use the competition for preparation.

Some riders from around the globe were hoping to use the event to further their selection prospects, including Zara Phillips, who intended to ride High Kingdom.

A good performance from a reportedly well-prepared Phillips in the four-star event would have considerably strengthened her hand in her bid for Olympic selection, although it is likely only one of the remaining eventing spots in the squad is still realistically open, barring injuries or mishaps.

The cancellation is a blow not only to riders and the tens of thousands of spectators that enjoy the event, but the local Gloucestershire economy. It has been estimated the cancellation will cost the local economy millions of pounds in tourist income, with the event attracting up to 250,000 spectators across the four days.

British evening’s performance manager, Yogi Breisner, said staff would be talking to top riders and plans will be put in place over the next 48 hours.

It is likely the Chatsworth Horse Trials in Derbyshire, in mid-May, will carry even greater weight in the eye of selectors.

Britain will be sending five eventers to the Olympics, with William Fox-Pitt, Mary King, Piggy French and Nicola Wilson almost certain to be named in the squad.

New Zealand double Olympic gold medallist Mark Todd, the defending Badminton champion, had intended to ride NZB Grass Valley and Major Milestone at Badminton.

He was resting his main mount, NZB Land Vision, on whom he won last year’s event, with a view to taking the horse to the Olympics, if he is selected.

Todd already knew the event was under a cloud, with a tweet before the announcement declaring: “Not liking the look of the weather forecast for this week – not at all.”

New Zealand’s Andrew Nicholson had also intended to rest his top horse, Nereo, but provide a run for his backup mounts Avebury and Mr Cruise Control.

Several Olympic hopefuls were following a similar strategy, using the event to give backup mounts a run.

It would have been the Badminton debut for Michael Jung, of Germany, who is the current world and European champion, and much interest would have surrounded William Fox-Pitt, fresh from success at the Kentucky Three-Day-Event.

A win for Fox-Pitt at Badminton would have seen him take home the $US350,000 Rolex Grand Slam.

 

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