The official winners at CCI4* Bicton International were Nicola Wilson (CCI4*L), Tom McEwen (CCI4* S) and Bubby Upton (CCI 4*L- U25). But the results on everyone’s mind this week are Tokyo eventing team selections.
Olympic hopefuls were out in force for the “Bramham-replacement” event. (Bicton stepped into the breach after CCI4* Bramham, which generally hosts the final team selection class in an Olympic year, was forced to cancel due to COVID-19 restrictions.)
Here’s where things stand for New Zealand, Ireland, Japan, Australia, and the Brits after an eventful weekend in Devon, UK.
New Zealander Amanda Pottinger, daughter of 1988 Olympic bronze medalist Tinks Pottinger, made a claim for Tokyo 2020 by finishing in the top ten and beating Kiwi legend Andrew Nicholson in the process. Amanda is hoping to follow in her Olympian mother’s footsteps aboard her long time partner Just Kidding. Maybe just don’t call her “Tink’s Daughter.”
“As far as being my mother’s daughter goes, it’s very refreshing being here in the UK where I am just Amanda, not ‘Tink’s Daughter’. But I am really grateful that I have a mother like her, who is so experienced and just a phone call away, whereas when I was younger I put myself under pressure to do as well as she did. Now I don’t do that and am much more relaxed about the subject,” said the 29 year old.
Ireland’s 2018 WEG medalist, Padraig Mc Carthy, did not have the best of luck on any of his three riders. But countrymen Austin O’Connor returned to the big time with a double clear on Colorado Blue, and former showjumper Fred Scala made up for one rail in the arena with a faultless and fast cross country on Everon Vivendi, giving the Irish selectors something to think about.
The Japanese sent three riders and four horses to the long-format contest—all of which completed (no mean feat at this competition). They have three more riders based in France and Germany, who know what they have to achieve at Luhmuhlen in Germany this week to gain a team place. With travel restrictions in both Japan and the UK, team selectors have been unable to attend in person and are relying on live streams and official observers as well as bare results to make their decisions.
Australia’s Chris Burton, allegedly the fastest man across country in the world, was not the fastest in Devon. (Piggy March and Brookfield Inocent took that honor.) But a fourth place on Quality Purdey makes his inclusion to the Tokyo squad look like a formality.
As for the British, two riders who did not make the short list made points: Tina Cook finishing eighth in the short class with Billy the Red, and Gemma Tattersall in the long section, who got both Santiago Bay and Chilli Knight into the top ten from 100 odd starters.
But the British have an extremely thorny selection decision coming this week.
World Champion Ros Canter was third behind Tom McEwen on All Star B, who may find her 1.6 time penalties cost more than the Bicton win. “All Star B really felt like he was back to his best,” she said. Even still, she was robbed of second place by a dazzling round from Kitty King on shortlisted Vendredi Biats who competed inside the time. King was not quite as fast on her 2016 Olympic ride Ceylor LAN but still finished ninth on that horse.
March, as already mentioned, had the fastest round of the day but an uncharacteristic rail in the arena jumping, as did Laura Collet with London 52. They still finished in seventh and fourth, respectively.
Nicola Wilson took a long route on her potential team horse Bulana so scored time faults in the Short, which like Ros, may cost her a team place. The £10’000 first prize for winning the CCI4*-Long with JL Dublin will not doubt soften the blow. “I am not really thinking about that now, just about getting home to Yorkshire and celebrating this win,” she laughed.
Wilson selected JL Dubin herself as a four year old from the Holsteiner Sales in Germany. “I thought he was really well put together, he had a good jumping technique and a kind eye. So I bought him! He was very boisterous and often still is and does a lot of squealing in the collecting ring, but today he was very focused. I am thrilled to win the Bramham replacement, I have been trying to win real Bramham for years its down the road from home, so even though I have had to get to the other end of the country to do it, it’s still a massive thrill. The event here has been just fantastic, the course and the ground were excellent.”
This last point was echoed by CCI4* Short winner, McEwen. “This is how eventing should be, a course right up to the level it’s supposed to be, that rewards the people who have done the preparation. We need to keep the levels clear, so people know what to expect and what to train for.”
Oliver Townend and Harry Meade were not required to run at Bicton with Ballaghmor Class and Superstition as they contested the CCI5* Kentucky this year.
On to Luhmuhlen! And the last chance to impress team selectors.