Kiwi eventers’ 4* plans for 2017

The four-star events are not that far away now, and our kiwi riders appear to have Badminton in their focus this year.

Defending Kentucky champions, Michael Jung and Fisherrocana are hoping for another Rolex win (Image: Rolex / Kit Houghton)

The eventing season in the UK will soon be under way, and plans are already firmly in place, especially when it comes to the four-star events. Our Kiwi eventers have their horses in work and are looking forward to competing at the top level.

The first four-star for 2017 is in Kentucky, USA at the end of April, with Badminton the weekend after in the UK. Kentucky now has the biggest prize money of all the four-star events with a total prize pool of US$400,000 with the winner taking $130,000.

Despite the large purse on offer, it doesn’t look as if there will be a big Kiwi contingent at Kentucky. However, one who will be waving the flag high is Joe Meyer. Clip Clop will be having his second start at Kentucky, and Joe will be hoping for an improvement from their 51st placing last year. With a year’s additional mileage under his belt, “Clippy” could do well. You can read more on Joe’s plans in this article.

Tim Price is the only other New Zealand rider who has Kentucky in his sights at this point, and will also be hoping for better luck this time. He and Jonelle Price are currently campaigning their horses on the show jumping circuit in Spain, seeing this as a good way of preparing for a busy eventing season. Tim was one of the unluckiest riders at Kentucky last year, falling off Bango at the penultimate fence when on track to record the only round under the time. He hasn’t decided which horse will go to the US, but it will be Ringwood Sky Boy, Bango or Xavier Faer. He plans on taking only one; the other two will go to Badminton. Jonelle says she is taking Classic Moët to Badminton; the pair were tenth there last year. She’s got a good team of rising stars too. “I am quite excited with my trio stepping up to three-star this spring – Kindred Spirit to Bramham, Cooley Showtime to Saumur and Ascona M to Tattersalls – all with a good year of two-star form behind them.”

Tim Price on Bango: a great round until disaster at the second to last fence at last year’s Kentucky (Image: Libby Law)

Kentucky doesn’t feature in Sir Mark Todd’s plans this year, but Badminton certainly does. If he can pull off a fifth Badminton title he will be even more of a hero, and he certainly has a fighting chance with the two very good horses he aims to have there: Leonidas and NZB Campino. Leonidas finished fourth last year, and seventh at the Olympics, and of course is a cracking cross-country horse. NZB Campino had a great campaign last year as well, finishing seventh at Kentucky and ninth at Burghley. Both horses will get their first start of the season in an Advanced Intermediate class at Tweseldown on March 9. Sir Mark also has Kiltubrid Rhapsody earmarked for Luhmuhlen which is in June. They had their first season together last year and finished with a sixth in the three-star at Boekelo.

Sir Mark Todd rode NZB Campino beautifully in truly awful conditions at Kentucky 2016 (Image: Libby Law)

Andrew Nicholson is another without Kentucky on his list of places to visit in 2017 but has a great team of horses – Nereo, Jetset, Teseo and Qwanza – and plans on riding at both Badminton and Luhmühlen. “I’ve not decided who goes where as yet, though.”

Andrew has yet to win Badminton despite being one of the best riders in the world for so long, and Nereo is all class, so will we see the lovely chestnut finally bring home the Badminton title for team Nicholson? Andrew didn’t contest Badminton in 2016, judging himself not fully fit after his bad neck injury in August 2015, but showed he was back to great form when he was second at Burghley last year on Nereo.

Andrew Nicholson and Nereo at 2015 Badminton, where they finished 6th. (Image Libby Law)

Blyth Tait has had a busy summer teaching here in New Zealand, but is soon to head back to the UK to get his own eventing season under way. Blyth is planning on starting Bear Necessity at Badminton and will be hoping for an even better performance than last year’s. It was Bear’s first Badminton start, and he finished 13th after a great cross-country and one of the few clear show jumping rounds. Blyth would also like to have another crack at Burghley, which is on the first weekend of September. Bear could go on to do this but Blyth also has two younger talented horses. “Both Leo Distinction and Darius completed their first 3* CCIs in 2016 and will be aimed at another in the spring (probably Tattersalls and Bramham). Either or both could potentially step up to four-star in the autumn at Burghley or Pau.”

Blyth Tait on Bear Necessity, a lovely clear showjumping round at last year’s Badminton. (Image: Libby Law Photography)

Dan Jocelyn is planning on entering Dassett Cool Touch for Badminton, and the horse’s 13th placing at Burghley last year shows he is more than capable of tackling the challenging Badminton track.

Dan Jocelyn with Dassett Cool Touch at Burghley horse inspection 2016 (Image: Libby Law)

Jesse Campbell is heading back to Badminton this year with Kaapachino. Last year was their first start at the prestigious event, and they finished 33rd. Jesse and Kaapy were 16th at Luhmuhlen CCI4* in 2015. Jesse is also planning to take his younger horses, Amsterdam and Cleveland to Pau for the French four-star later in the season, all things going well.

Jesse Campbell and Kaapachino completed their first Badminton in 33rd place last year (Image: Libby Law)

Clarke Johnstone and Jock Paget finished fifth and sixth respectively at last year’s Badminton, Clarke on Balmoral Sensation and Jock on Clifton Lush. Clarke won’t be competing Ritchie in the early four-star events, but possibly will take him to Adelaide in November as he  builds up again for the World Equestrian Games in 2018.

Clarke Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation during their brilliant Badminton cross-country (Image Libby Law)

Jock is now based in New Zealand and focusing on coaching and building up his small team here. Clifton Lush has retired from eventing at that level, but Jock has high hopes for Angus Blue, the NZ thoroughbred he brought back to New Zealand after a good UK stint. The 10-year-old gelding by Senor Pete finished second at Ballindenisk CCI3* last September.

Jock Paget and Angus Blue (Image: Libby Law)

Caroline Powell is also planning on being on the Badminton entry list, with at least Onwards & Upwards. The pair finished eighth at Burghley in 2016, so go into Badminton on good form, and Caroline is a very talented and experienced four-star rider. She campaigned Spice Sensation and Flying Finish at Pau in October last year, jumping clear across country on both, but finishing out of the money, so we hope to see those two out at the top level again soon.

Caroline Powell on Onwards and Upwards at Burghley 2016 (Image: Libby Law)

Englishman William Fox-Pitt has indicated he will be at Badminton, but isn’t planning on travelling to Kentucky this year. His Olympic stallion, Chilli Morning, has now retired from eventing to concentrate on his stud career.

Two German superstars have also announced their plans. Michael Jung is taking La Biosthetique Sam to Badminton and two horses to Kentucky: fischerTakinou and fischerRocana FST. It would be hard to bet against Michael, who is the defending Kentucky champion, but perhaps the big question will be which horse will triumph? We are picking that he is also after the 2017 Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing, and the $350,000 that goes with it. Last year, Michael became the second-ever rider to win this (Pippa Funnell being the first) and there is a good chance he could pull it off again with such a great team of horses. The Grand Slam is awarded to any rider who wins the Rolex Kentucky, Mitsubishi Motors Badminton and Land Rover Burghley four-star events in succession.

Ingrid Klimke is also planning to head to Badminton in May, with Horseware Hale Bob OLD. She won’t be heading to Kentucky.

Germany’s Ingrid Klimke on Hale Bob OLD at the Olympics. (Image: Libby Law)

Of course these are all just plans, and we know how horses like to have their own say in riders’ plans! But we wish all our Kiwi international riders all the very best for competing against the world’s best, and we will be following closely all the way!