Emotional send-off expected for Olympic team
MEMBERS of the British equestrian team will parade in front of the crowds at the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe Park on Sunday week before departing to their Olympic training camps, writes Skip Walker.
The Greenwich Park-bound quintet of Kristina Cook, William Fox-Pitt, Mary King, late substitute Nicola Wilson and the Cotswolds’ own Zara Phillips will appear in the main arena on Sunday afternoon at 2pm in one of the Queen’s State Range Rovers.
Course-designer and Zara’s father, Captain Mark Phillips said the Sunday parade would be a very special occasion. “The Queen has very kindly let us have the State Range Rovers to go around in and it will be an absolutely great send-off and an emotional occasion, particularly in view of Zara’s involvement,” he said.
Phillips added that the rain, which had been a disaster for many events around the country this year had been appreciated at Gatcombe.
“Up here in the high Cotswolds it has been something of a blessing because we tend to dry out, but the grass cover now is giving a better footing than we’ve ever had. It has never looked so green.”
He revealed that although his Championship course follows a similar route to last year, new combination fences would pose difficult and interesting challenges for the riders.
This year has been extremely busy for Phillips as his day job is coach to the US equestrian team, which arrived for training in Stow-on-the-Wold just over a week ago.
Phillips will therefore be relying on his back-up team at Gatcombe, headed by son Peter, rather more than usual.
The Festival of British Eventing takes place from Friday to Sunday, July 13 to 15. New Zealander Andrew Nicholson will be defending his British Eventing Open Championship title, which has a prize of £5,000.