Monday, 25 April 2011

Sam Watson: A Legend Leads The Pack

Mark Todd |Leading After Cross Country
Mark Todd, what a legend!! If you want to know what the riders of Badminton 2011 are thinking right now, that’s it. If anything was going to hold Land Vision back this week then it was probably going to be time penalties. But ‘Sir Mark Todd to be’ got every last inch out of his horse using his extraordinary feel and his palpable determination.

Despite all that, he hasn’t exactly got much breathing room – there are no less than eleven riders within a single show jump of our current leader. It will be a strange atmosphere in the lorry park because usually there aren’t so many combinations with so much to play for going into the final phase. There are still the inevitable casualties of a cross country course of this magnitude and again, heartfelt commiserations will be offered to the riders concerned. The camaraderie amongst competitors after the cross country is similar to that of the battle field, delight and pride for those who have defeated the common enemy and the deepest respect for the wounded.



The heroes between cross country and the final horse inspection are the grooms. They waved goodbye to normality when their horses left that start box. So much work goes into keeping these animals on the road and then the riders spend eleven and a half minutes on the cross country course undoing all their great work. It gets worse because we then ask them to put the horses back together again in just over twelve hours. However, the event horse is a pretty phenomenal athlete and even the ones that appeared a little exhausted crossing the finish line will be prancing around by 8.30am on Monday morning. I do predict a few more overnight withdrawals, simply because that’s the norm at a four star competition. You can’t expect that many horses to jump that many enormous solid obstacles and not get the odd superficial bang to a knee that will rule a horse out of the show jumping. But what everyone wants to know is which horses from the business end of the leaderboard may be carrying a knock or feeling unusually lacklustre. There’s £60,000 up for grabs here, not to mention the title of Badminton winner 2011. The stables are a busy place on Sunday night and Monday morning….

So what are my reflections and predictions? Maximum respect to team New Zealand. Toddy you’re awesome, and Andrew Nicholson I literally don’t have an adjective to describe your cross country ability. Lenamore, you’re the equine version of Mark Todd and you have a place in the history books. Marina Kohncke, you’re first two phases have been really polished and you’re a definite medal contender for London next year, provided the show jumping isn’t a disaster. Nicola Wilson, what a nice person, this success is so deserved, you made this track look easy yet again and I think you’re the main contender for the title this year. Piggy French, surely that’s the Badminton ghost laid to rest, possibly too many good ones in front of you to take the title I feel, but you scored the only ‘10’ in the dressage this year so not a bad week’s work. Laura Collett, awesome debut. Yes your horse can do dressage but you delivered big time on your first Badminton cross country course. He’s only completed one three star and that was two years ago, so I hope everyone gives you the respect you deserve. I’m gutted for most of the Irish, particularly the two that are in hospital. Never the best place to be. I think Aoife Clark showed a huge amount of class and Joseph Murphy is now a proven four star rider on a four star horse, good job. I said in my last blog that unavoidable disaster would strike for some unlucky combinations and of course it did. The big name victims were Ruth Edge, Ingrid Klimke, Oliver Townend, Emily Baldwin and Karen O’Connor. No words will ease their disappointment so I won’t even try….

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