The horses have arrived. The riders have arrived. The fans are getting on flights and into cars. Tomorrow we will have the first horse inspection and the buzz of a championship rings around the eventing world again. We are back in Germany for a major championship for the first time since the Europeans were here at Luhmühlen 2011. That year was early in the period of German dominance which saw them win every available individual gold medal from 2010 to 2017 and dominate team golds too (2008 and 2012 Olympics, world team gold in 2014 and European team gold in 2011, 2013 and 2015).
As we arrive back in Luhmühlen eight years later, we are at a similar point in the cycle but for a different team. Again led by Chris Bartle, defending European Champions and reigning world champions, Team GBR are flying high. The strength in depth, the quality of the individual performances at CCI5* and ERM, it feels like the start of a potential period of dominance for Team GBR. But, and it is a big but, the news of the Toledo de Kerser withdrawal this week could change it all. It could be one of those ‘What if’ moments as we look back on it in the years to come.
The period of dominance could be stalled. This decade, as it stands, sees the German team on 5 majors, Team GBR on 3 and France on 1. By the end of the weekend, it will likely be either 6-3 to Germany or just 5-4 – and the decade will be remembered not just for German dominance but as one which saw two great teams go head-to-head. The Toledo news is big. And we haven’t even started.
The Germans are now favourites with Team GBR the other major player. Like Man City and Liverpool in the Premier League, even in a sport where ‘anything can happen’, it would be a big shock if anyone got past these two. We have it only around a 20% chance that it isn’t one of the big two on top of the podium.
The Sean Murray model has Sweden ahead of France, the Sam Watson model has France taking the last spot on the podium. It is very close either way. The battle for third, and the battle for the Olympic places for those still to get a ticket, looks very close.
Defending champion SAP Hale Bob OLD beat the numbers in Aachen when he became the first ever winner of the event to have a pole down. The victory was built on a strong start. They scored 20.7 in the first phase and are likely to be close to that number again this week. Michael Jung and FischerChipmunk FRH started on a 21.5 in Aachen and again, are likely to close to if not at the top on Friday night.
At Aachen, the pre-competition Eventing Prediction Centre had Ingrid as the out-and-out favourite at 31%, Michael in second at 15% and Tim Lips third favourite to take the win on 10%. The same three, on almost the same percentage win chances take the first three spots at Luhmühlen.
The last 5 winners of the Europeans have come from the top 3 after dressage (2 from 1st, 2 from 2nd and one from 3rd). Those strong dressage horses are being rewarded by the model too.
The job of riders like Oliver Townend, Laura Collett, Kitty King and Piggy French, will be to keep at the very least, within a rail of Michael and Ingrid going into Sunday. At Aachen, the Eventing Prediction Centre was reading the show jumping in the middle phase and there were big swings, with Ingrid’s pole meaning it was almost a straight battle between herself and Laura Collett on the numbers. This time, with the show jumping at the end, we really won’t know how the model reads their chances until Saturday night.
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