Fringe Olympic eventers push for London
New Zealand's fringe Olympic eventers get a chance to press their claims at the three-star Tattersalls International Horse Trials in Ireland, starting tonight (NZ time).
The five high performance squad members – Andrew Nicholson, Mark Todd, Caroline Powell, Jock Paget and Clarke Johnstone – are virtually guaranteed to be the five eventers wearing the Silver Fern in London come July 28 providing they and their horses come through the next two months unscathed.
But if one or more fails to do so – and it should be noted Johnstone has only his top horse, Orient Express, still in the running after injuries to his other two contenders – then the likes of Lucy Jackson, Jonelle Richards or Lizzie Brown will come into the mix for the fifth spot on the Olympic team.
So while the big guns, aside from Todd, are missing from Tattersalls, Equestrian Sports New Zealand high performance director Sarah Harris will be keeping a keen eye on proceedings. "It's certainly not a closed shop, in terms of Olympic selection," she said.
"Those five squad members are the most likely to be on the team for London but, as we know, anything can happen with horses and there's still a lot of water to pass under the bridge before the Olympics.
"The riders on the fringe need to keep performing at events like the one this week."
Lining up in the showpiece CCI three-star are Todd on his non-Olympic contender Major Milestone, while Richards will be riding Mere Oak and Jackson has Willy Do.
Todd and Richards also have rides in the CCI two-star, as does Johnstone, who has taken Regal Romar to Ireland.
Meanwhile, dressage rider Vanessa Way's quest for a spot on the Olympic equestrian team continues with an appearance at a CDI three-star dressage event in Compiegne, France, starting tonight.
Way still needs to register two more scores of 66 per cent or better to qualify under ESNZ's criteria, which would loosely place her as a top 20 candidate at the Olympics.
Kiwi No1 and Athens Olympian Louisa Hill has been confirmed for the Olympics and is continuing her buildup in Germany, where she is based with her trainer.