WORld No 1 Scott Brash has backed Great Britain’s showjumping team to make a mark at the FEI European Championships next week when they go into battle for Olympic qualification without him.
The 29-year-old from Peebles has not been included in a four-strong team announced by the British Equestrian Federation.
Britain, despite winning team gold at London 2012, have yet to qualify for Rio next year, and the Europeans represent their final chance. Three places are up for grabs, but Britain can expect strong competition from countries such as Ireland, Switzerland, Belgium and Spain.
Brash was a member of the successful London Olympics quartet alongside Ben Maher, Nick Skelton and Peter Charles, but neither of his top horses, Hello Sanctos and Hello M’Lady, are heading to Aachen in Germany, where Britain will defend the European team crown they won two years ago.
Sussex-based Brash is aiming Sanctos for Calgary next month, when he will bid to become the first winner of showjumping’s £700,000 Rolex Grand Slam, which is awarded to any rider who wins successive grands prix at Geneva, Aachen and Spruce Meadows. And Brash does not believe that the nine-year-old mare Hello M’Lady, a horse he rode for Britain at the Dublin Nations Cup last Friday, is quite ready to contest a major championship.
“Hello M’Lady is going to be a top, top horse, but she just showed her lack of experience in Dublin,” Brash said.
“Maybe these championships are six months too soon for her, and she has never been to Aachen before. Hopefully by next year, she is ready for a championship, and we have got high hopes for her for the future, but this year is just a little too soon, unfortunately. Me and the horse’s owners have had long discussions, and that is the decision we came to. The horses have got to come first.”
Brash’s absence, though, is a major blow to team boss Di Lampard. Her squad for Germany now comprises Maher with Diva II, 19-year-old Jessica Mendoza and Spirit T, Joe Clee with Utamaro d’Ecaussines and Michael Whitaker, riding Cassionato. Guy Williams is the travelling reserve on Titus II, with Robert Whitaker (Catwalk IV) and William Whitaker (Fandango) named as non-travelling reserves.
“I think it is a very good team,” added Brash, who apart from Olympic gold, has a European team gold medal and individual bronze, in addition to landing overall Global Champions Tour series titles in 2013 and 2014, while also enjoying an almost uninterrupted run as world No 1 since November 2013.
“They all deserve to be there, they have all had very good results all year, and they’ve got a really good chance. I wish them all well, and I really hope they can do it.”
Lampard, meanwhile, added: “We are all entirely focused on the job we have ahead of us. Qualifying for Rio is at the forefront of our minds, and we are absolutely committed to giving Great Britain the chance to defend the team gold which was won at London 2012. We move forward to Aachen as a strong united team.”
Mendoza, who is from Wiltshire, but currently based in Holland, said: “Spirit has jumped absolutely brilliantly this summer and deserves it. It [Europeans] was never in my plan at the beginning of the year, but she kind of made it the plan as she just kept getting better and better each time we stepped up a level. I feel that I know her inside out - we trust each other totally.”