Mark Todd's top horse out of London Olympics
Equestrian great Mark Todd's chances of providing one of the stories of the London Olympics have been dealt a massive blow with the injury-enforced withdrawal of his top horse, 2011 Badminton champion NZB Land Vision.
The two-time Olympic gold medallist had been preparing Land Vision over the English winter with the sole aim of peaking for London, but a recurrence of a tendon injury means the four-star champion must be stood down for at least three months to allow a complete recovery.
Todd has other horses qualified and will be looking at the likes of NZB Campino, Grass Valley and Major Milestone to step up for what would be his seventh Olympics.
But he held Land Vision in the same esteem as his double Olympic goal medal-winning ride Charisma, so the news is naturally a bitter blow for the 56-year-old who is looking to return to the winner's circle 24 years after his last Olympic triumph in Seoul.
"He proved himself at Badminton last year as one of the best four-star horses in the world and I thought if I got him to the Olympics fit and sound he would have had a good chance at winning a medal," Todd said.
"It is very disappointing for me, my sponsors New Zealand Bloodstock and the New Zealand team."
Earlier this year, Todd told Fairfax he regarded Land Vision as one of the best dressage horses in world eventing and he didn't hesitate comparing the 11-year-old with Charisma.
"All is far from lost," Todd said. "Campino is very good in all phases, too, and while he is not quite as experienced as Land Vision he can also be a competitive prospect."
The cancellation of Badminton this weekend now impacts on Todd, as Grass Valley and Major Milestone were to compete in what would have been a much-needed four-star run for both horses, who now loom as potential Olympic rides.
Grass Valley, on whom he finished 11th at the 2010 world championships and contributed to a team bronze medal, is yet to actually qualify.
It will head to the three-star event at Saumur in France from May 17 while Campino will compete at Chatsworth from May 12 and Major Milestone to Tattersalls in Ireland, followed by at Luhmuhlen in Germany in June, the only four-star competition on the eventing calendar before the Olympics begin on July 28.
Todd remains confident that the Kiwis have the horse power to do well at the Olympics. "With some very experienced riders, we've certainly still got the basis of a very strong team for London."
Equestrian Sports New Zealand fully expects Todd to be one the five-strong eventing team for the Olympics.