Equestrians confident of France podium finish
The New Zealand three-day eventing team is confident of a podium finish at the first leg of the FEI Nations Cup at Fontainebleau in France, which starts tomorrow.
Sir Mark Todd spearheads the Kiwi team, which includes fellow London Olympic team bronze medallist Jonelle Richards and Megan Heath, for the first significant date of the Northern Hemisphere calendar this year.
The team-based Nations Cup is being trialled by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI). Equestrian Sports New Zealand's increased funding from High Performance Sport New Zealand for 2013 is helping to fund their participation in the series of three-star events.
"It is still being trialled by the FEI, so there isn't a lot of prize money incentive for teams at the event," ESNZ high performance director Sarah Harris said.
"It is still very early in the season, but these are good riders on good horses, so we are confident of a podium finish."
Todd will ride Regent Lad for the team, and his London mount Campino as an individual, while Richards adds her Olympic horse Flintstar to the team line-up and The Deputy as an individual. Heath is competing on St Daniel.
"Megan has had some very good results in the UK in the past 12 months and will be looking for a good run to prove herself as a contender for our HP programme," Harris said.
There are eight teams entered, including Olympic gold and silver medallists Germany and Britain. Germany has included three of their Olympic team riders.
"We are there with a team that all have great horses," New Zealand coach Erik Duvander said.
"These horses haven't had a lot of runs, but they are experienced, so should go well."
The dressage will be held over two days, starting tomorrow morning (NZT), with the cross country on Sunday and showjumping on Monday.
Other stops in the Nations Cup include Houghton Hall (Great Britain), Strzegom (Poland), Aachen (Germany), Montelibretti (Italy), and Boekelo (The Netherlands).