The Australians have named their eventing team; well, they have named the four and will name the travelling reserve and other reserves later. It’s an all-bloke team this time. Chris Burton (Santano II), Sam Griffiths (Paulank Brockagh), Shane Rose (CP Qualified) and Stuart Tinney (Pluto Mio) got the nod. No room for the Australian women, Sonja Johnson or Sammi Birch, who are on the long list, but more contentiously there is no room for Paul Tapner who has had some good form in the UK recently.
Horse & Hound are reporting that the “team selection had been subject to the outcome of an appeal.” They had spoken with Equestrian Australia last week and had been told that “the final four would be announced at the conclusion of the appeals process.” But today there was confirmation that no further details of the appeal would be made public at this time. So, we can only speculate as to who may have appealed, but Paul Tapner must have been very disappointed to have missed out. He has yet to communicate about his surprise non-inclusion, whereas Bill Levett, who was also predicted by many to be in the team, tweeted. (Update: Paul has now shared this article on his various social media platforms, and is focusing on Gatcombe. Best of luck Paul!)
— Bill Levett (@billlevett) July 12, 2016
Gutted not to make cut for Rio but v proud of my horses & team & grateful to my owners, sponsors 4 support lots to look 4wd 4 rest of season
— Bill Levett (@billlevett) July 12, 2016
Paul had been named on the long list with Prince Mayo, who won his last event at Tattersalls in June, the CCI3*. However, the pair had not yet attempted a four-star. Prince Mayo was formerly ridden by Jordan McDonald, the Canadian who was killed in a cross-country accident in 2014.
Paul also has a string of other horses. At last weekend’s Barbury he was second on 14-year-old Yogi Bear, who has good form at two- and three-star level but has yet to attempt a four-star. Paul competed on Vanir Kamira at this year’s Badminton, finishing 18th, and at last year’s Burghley, finishing 34th. His best-performed horse is Kilronan, the 15-year-old Irish sporthorse who was 13th at this year’s Badminton, 13th at last year’s Burghley and 14th at the tough World Equestrian Games in 2014. However, Paul wasn’t included in the long list on any of these horses. If he doesn’t go as the travelling reserve, perhaps he can take some consolation by being able to add more points to his total in the lucrative Event Rider Masters series, as the Gatcombe leg is on at the same time as the Olympic eventing. Paul is currently second behind Gemma Tattersall, who will be at the Games.
But even without Paul, the Aussies are putting up a very experienced team and have an awesome record in eventing. They have won 11 medals, the first in Rome in 1960 and the last in 2008. Six of those have been gold ones.
Shane Rose must be considered a medal chance, if he can have better Olympic luck than in the past. He has had to pull out twice, so has only ever competed in 2008 where he won a silver team medal. His wins in 2015 include Adelaide and Taupo as well as a string of others in Australia. He has only recently taken his two horses (CP Qualified and Virgil) to the UK, travelling with Sonja and Stuart’s horses.
Sam Griffiths will attend his second Olympics and is also hoping for a bit more luck than at London 2012 when his horse, Happy Times, fell on a turn. He had only got into that team at the last minute after Shane and Megan Jones both had to withdraw, so at least this time he will have a better preparation. He also does have the Badminton trophy in his cabinet, won on the lovely mare, Paulank Brockagh.
Chris Burton is currently no.2 on the FEI world rankings. Rio will be his second Olympics. He was 16th individually at London on Leilani. Santano II won the Saumur CCI3* in May. The combination have yet to compete at four-star level. Chris also has Nobilis 18 as a reserve horse. The pair fell at Badminton this year, their first four-star attempt, but won the Belton CIC3* in April. Probably Chris’s best-performing horse is TS Jamaimo, who was third in Burghley last year and won Adelaide in 2013. The 17-year-old had also been in the team at WEG but withdrew after dressage as he developed colic.
Perhaps, for some, the most surprising inclusion in the team is Stuart Tinney. Stuart does, however, have a wonderful history of pulling out great performances at the big events. He was one of the team when the Australians won team gold at Sydney. He was the best-performed Australian at WEG, finishing 11th. Pluto Mio has not always had the best record in the dressage arena, but his scores have improved in his last few outings. He finished fifth at Adelaide CCI4* in 2013 and ninth last year.
The reserve combinations will attend a camp with the team after Aachen and the travelling reserve and other reserves will be named on or before 26 July. In alphabetical order, the combinations in contention are:
- Samantha Birch & Hunter Valley II
- Chris Burton & Nobilis 18
- Sonja Johnson & Parkiarrup Illicit Liaison
- William Levett & Alexander NJ
- William Levett and Improvise
- Shane Rose & Virgil
- Paul Tapner & Prince Mayo
- Stuart Tinney & Carlchen
EA have also clarified the position in regard to riders being named with more than one horse. “For the avoidance of doubt, if an athlete’s first nominated horse becomes unavailable, their second horse will be considered amongst the group of reserve combinations. They may, however, not necessarily become a direct substitution. This decision will be at the discretion of the selectors.”
Meanwhile, in the land of the lovely maple syrup, it is not all sweetness. Eventing Connect reported that there had been an appeal made to the eventing team and that it has been successful. While there is no official confirmation, it is being reported that Jessica Phoenix won her appeal and will be included in the team. The team had been named two weeks ago as Rebecca Howard (Riddle Master), Selena O’Hanlon (Foxwood High), Colleen Loach (Qorry Blue d’Argouges) and Kathryn Robinson (Let It Bee). So, one of those will miss out if this is indeed true. Jessica has four horses who were Olympic-qualified: A Little Romance, Bentley’s Best, Pavarotti, and Abbey GS. She had ridden three of them in the dressage phase at Kentucky this year but curiously pulled all three out before the cross-country. Her best dressage score there was 44.7 on Pavarotti.
There are changes in the American eventing team as well. The travelling reserve, Maya Black, has withdrawn Doesn’t Play Fair due to veterinary concerns. The gelding is expected to make a full recovery. The new travelling reserve is Lynn Symansky on LLC’s Donner.
The three women in the eventing team look happy enough, especially as they go to pick up their Olympic uniforms! Gemma Tattersall has confirmed that she will be taking Quicklook V to Rio. Arctic Soul was not considered, because of a small injury.