The horses are doing fine, but the humans are falling thick and fast in the lead-up to this weekend’s four-star Australian International 3-Day Event in Adelaide, writes Anna Sharpley.
The countdown to the event, the second of the FEI Classics 2013/2014 series, has been nothing short of dramatic. Atlanta Olympic gold medallist Wendy Schaeffer returned to Adelaide to try for a third victory, but broke her leg in two places in a training fall and will not be on the start list.
Schaeffer is no stranger to injury, as she won her Atlanta Olympic gold medal just nine weeks after breaking her leg, but there will be no such Lazarus moment in time for Adelaide 2013. A pragmatic Schaeffer, who now lives in Britain with her husband, Nigel Macdonald, commented in a recent interview: “It’s all part of the lifestyle, you have to take the good with the bad.”
Another British-based international rider, Christopher Burton, has actually benefited from a similar mishap. Burton was intending to be a guest and enjoy the Adelaide four-star festivities on foot, but the opportunity for a last-minute catch ride sees him taking over the ride on TS Jamaimo from the injured Will Enzinger, who broke his leg falling from a novice horse last week. Stephanie Pearce’s Thoroughbred gelding, by Urgent Request, will be making his four-star debut at Adelaide. Enzinger was third at the Goulburn CIC *** in October aboard Jamaimo and was looking forward to riding the horse at Adelaide. The owner was keen to have the horse start and Enzinger, in hospital awaiting surgery, organised for Burton to ride the horse. Burton is no stranger to Thoroughbreds and won the Adelaide CCI**** in 2010 riding Newsprint.
But the most dramatic incident was course designer Wayne Copping being rushed to hospital after suffering a heart attack a week before the event. Copping has undergone heart bypass surgery and fully intends to be at the event in the centre of Adelaide. “I’m sure Wayne will make it, even if he has to be driven around in a golf cart,” Event Director Gill Rolton says.
“We have been very fortunate, because Mike Etherington-Smith flew in to Adelaide on Wednesday to essentially walk the course with Wayne and me as part of his role working with Australian High Performance. Mike stayed over until Friday night and helped the course-builders with the last minute fine-tuning that Wayne would normally do. Mike was able to take up the reins a bit and help out and will be back at the event as Course Director for the FEI Seminar.”
Rolton said there had been good rain, and ground staff were also irrigating and aerating the course and dumping more water on it on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, so the footing should be very good.
“For the first time this year the course goes in to the south part of Victoria Park which means on the first part of the course the horses are able to get into a good rhythm and gallop before the more intricate tests in Rymill Park.”
Some 26 horses are entered for the FEI Classics™ CCI**** – a substantial improvement on the 14 starters in 2012. Australian spectators are at the mercy of international competition with Olympic Games and FEI World Equestrian Games selection depleting the fields at home. There is also the opposite effect during selection years and many in the CCI**** field have selection for the World Equestrian Games foremost in their minds.
Kiwis Donna Smith and Monica Oakley have also made the trip across the Tasman.
Sydney Olympic team gold medallist Stuart Tinney has two entered. He will be hoping for third time lucky with the Daley K gelding, Pluto Mio, and also brings the four-star debutante Sydney. Craig Barrett is looking to make it back-to-back four-star wins with the home-bred Staccato mare Sandhills Brillaire, whom he rides for the Osbornes.
Sonja Johnson is over from Western Australia and keen to impress the selectors, especially with her former racehorse, Parkiarrup Illicit Liaison who was a little unlucky not to be selected on the team for London last year. Johnson also has another Australian Stock Horse, Belfast Mojito, in the four-star. Although promising, only time will tell whether he matches up to her Beijing Team Silver mount, Ringwould Jaguar. But there is no doubt that Johnson is in it to win it.
Shane Rose is back at Adelaide with Jonnie Walker’s Warmblood/Thoroughbred cross, Taurus, who was selected for the London 2012 Olympic Games only to go lame about five days out. No doubt Rose is hoping that fate will deal him a kinder hand in his pursuit to make the WEG 2014 team to Normandy with a winning performance at Adelaide. He also has the four-star debutante, CP Qualified, a Warmblood by Quite Capitol that was imported by Jumping international George Sanna. Natalie Blundell was also in contention for London 2012 with Julia McLean’s Algebra, another former racehorse that has shown good form, with top-four finishes in the HSBC FEI Classics at Adelaide for the past two years.
There is a lot of interest in Christine Bates having another crack at Adelaide with her own Adelaide Hill. A run out in 2011 kept them out of the money, but professional rider and trainer Bates, despite a badly broken finger, is determined to add her name to the Adelaide four-star winners list. Melbourne 2013 CCI*** winner, Katja Weimann is keen to step her home-bred, BP Flamboyant, up to four-star level and will be one of the interesting debutantes to watch this year. Other first timers include team selector turned to possible team selectee, Seumas Marwood with his highly regarded Contango II mare, Wild Oats.
Sadly for Megan Jones, and for the event promoters she has withdrawn her Thoroughbred, Kirby Park Allofasudden who was momentarily on the team for London 2012 until lameness sidelined him as well. The 2008 Olympic team silver medalist is not 100 percent happy with the horse and the popular rider will be a pedestrian this year.
Although Adelaide has lost both its “golden girls” from the start list, they will be on hand to promote the event and the sport. Despite the drama in the build-up, Adelaide’s unique city location, its festive atmosphere and great weather has made it the pre-Christmas outing of choice for the broader equestrian community for the past 13 years.
“We have expanded the programme this year,” Rolton said, “to embrace more of the city people coming to the event, with the Twilight Polo on Friday evening a sell out. The grandstand is sold out, the VIP area is packed to the rafters and the trade village is bigger than it has ever been.”
At the end of the FEI Classics 2013/2014 season, the five riders with the highest number of points collected across the six events will share a total prize fund of US$120,000 split as follows:
1st – US$40,000 (Series Champion);
2nd – US$35,000;
3rd – US$25,000;
4th – US$15,000;
5th – US$5,000.
FEI Classics 2013/2014 calendar
1 Les Etoiles de Pau CCI 4* (FRA) – 23-27 October 2013
2 Australian International 3 Day Event (AUS) – 14-17 November 2013
3 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event (USA) – 23-27 April 2014
4 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (GBR) – 8-11 May 2014
5 Luhmühlen CCI 4* presented by DHL Paket (GER) – 12-15 June 2014
6 Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (GBR) – 4-7 September 2014