Many of the world’s top riders are heading to Luhmühlen in Germany for the penultimate leg of the HSBC FEI Classics™, where they will be trying to reduce the significant lead established by William Fox-Pitt (GBR), winner of Pau last year and Kentucky in April.
Fox-Pitt misses Luhmühlen after a double of wins in Bramham last weekend. The Briton has as a 14-point lead over New Zealander Andrew Nicholson, the only rider that can overhaul Fox-Pitt this weekend before the 2012 series ends in a fiercely contested finale at Burghley (August 30-September 2).
The other rider who can come close at Luhmühlen is the highly successful American Boyd Martin, who is travelling over from the USA with Remington XXV, the 16-year-old Hanoverian. Martin is currently sixth in the HSBC FEI Classics™ rankings after a great Rolex Kentucky performance for third place on Otis Barbotiere.
Nicholson, who had his best result in the HSBC FEI Classics™ last year, finishing third, brings three horses to Luhmühlen. He rides the up-and-coming Calico Joe, the horse he retired on the Cross Country at Kentucky, plus two elegant greys, Shady Grey, a first-timer at this level, and Mr Cruise Control, by the great Irish jumping sire, Cruising, runner-up at Pau last year and fourth at Luhmühlen in 2010.
Following the cancellation of Badminton last month, many riders are still pinning their hopes on Luhmühlen as an opportunity to shine before final Olympic selection is made, and a total of 13 nations are represented.
There is a strong Australian contingent, which includes triple Olympic gold medallist Andrew Hoy on Rutherglen, another horse that was retired on the Kentucky Cross Country - Hoy is aiming for a sixth Olympics - Beijing team silver medallists Lucinda Fredericks on CCI4* first-timer Flying Finish and Clayton Fredericks on Walterston Don, plus Atlanta team gold medallist Wendy Schaeffer on Koyuna Sun Dancer.
Also in the Australian camp is Queenslander Kevin McNab, FEI World Cup™ Eventing points leader in 2008, and 2010 Badminton winner Paul Tapner, who has Inonothing back in action after a year off due to injury.
The reigning Olympic champions, Germany, are allowing themselves plenty of choice for London 2012 with top riders running their less established horses.
Michael Jung, the reigning World and European Champion, who will be making his Olympic début, brings Weidezaunprofi's River of Joy. Last year’s winner, Andreas Dibowski, will ride FRH Butts Avedon, and the 2011 runner-up, Sandra Auffarth, has Parancs.
Dirk Schrade and Anna Warnecke, meanwhile, are riding their experienced campaigners King Artus and Twinklebee respectively, while Kai Rüder has a new ride at this level in Oliver Cael.
Other new partnerships of interest include Karin Donckers (BEL) on Maxwell Steele, Denmark’s Peter Flarup on Calista E and Oliver Townend (GBR) on Armada, the brilliant Cross Country horse formerly ridden by Andrew Nicholson (NZL) and the ten-year-old Irish bay ODT Sonas Roviatio.
16 June 2012 - Cross Country live from 13.20 CEST
17 June 2012 - Jumping live from 13.25 CEST
HSBC’s Training Bursary
At the centre of HSBC’s sponsorship is a commitment to the development of Eventing at every level. As part of its support of the HSBC FEI Classics™, HSBC has introduced a Training Bursary. This is a unique award which is presented to the highest placed rider never to have completed a 4* event prior to 1 January 2011. The winning rider receives a training voucher to the value of $1,000, which is spent on sessions with a trainer of the athlete’s choice approved by the FEI and the relevant National Federation. Further information can be found here: http://www.fei.org/hsbc/hsbc-training-bursary
HSBC FEI Classics™ 2012 Leaderboard (after 3 out of 6 events):
1 William Fox-Pitt (GBR) 30
2 Andrew Nicholson (NZL) 16
3 Stuart Tinney (AUS) 15
4 Alison Springer (USA) 12
5 Sonja Johnson (AUS) 12
6 Boyd Martin (USA) 10
7 Emma Mason (AUS) 10
8 Mary King (GBR) 8
9 Karen O’Connor (USA) 8
10 Natalie Blundell (AUS) 8
Photo caption: Andrew Nicholson (NZL), pictured here on Mr Cruise Control at Pau, aims close the gap with current leader William Fox-Pitt at the HSBC FEI Classics™ in Luhmühlen. Image: Kit Houghton/FEI.