TOP-FIVE DOMINATIONThere is a four-star achievement that hasn’t been achieved outside of Australia for ten years. That in itself should be a clue, but the answer is quite the task – a complete top-five clean sweep by a nation in a four-star. Australia did it eight times between 2008 and 2016 on home soil at Adelaide. For geographical reasons it is quite the outlier, so we will focus on the other five majors, plus any WEGs (not possible at an Olympic Games) that took place between 2008 and 2017.
We use a simple points system to measure those that have come close. Five points are awarded for first place, four for second place, down to one point for fifth place. The maximum for a full clean sweep is therefore fifteen points.
MOST RECENT CLEAN SWEEPS OUTSIDE AUSTRALIAIn 2008, this awesome dominance by a nation in a major was achieved twice. Both times by nations on their home soil. At Burghley, William Fox-Pitt led home a one-two for GBR with the mighty Tamarillo taking the win and the ever-reliable Ballincoola finishing runner-up to his stablemate. Mary King followed up with the three-four aboard Imperial Cavalier and Apache Sauce, with Nicola Wilson completing the quintet with her stalwart Opposition Buzz.
The same year also produced an Adelaidesque performance from the USA at Kentucky, taking the top eight places in a field that perhaps lacked the usual strength of European raiders that we are now used to in more recent years. Phillip Dutton won the event with Connaught, and he still remains the most recent US rider to do so. The fun-fact here is that if Boyd Martin (8th place) had been riding for the USA at the time (instead of AUS), then it would have been a top ten clean sweep for the hosts.
CLOSEST ENCOUNTERSSince 2008, there have been a couple of big efforts from nations, but the top-five full-house remains elusive in a sport that is clearly becoming more evenly spread between the powerhouse nations.
10 POINTERSThe US have picked up ten points on three occasions, each time for finishing 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th – the relevant years were 2012, 2014 and 2016. The 10-point haul has also been achieved twice by New Zealand, both times aided by a win from the maestro Andrew Nicholson. These came at Burghley in 2013 and then again at Badminton in 2017. Great Britain had a fruitful 2009 at Badminton when they just reached the double-figure mark of ten points, and they did it again with a raid on French soil at Pau in 2011.
11 IN 11Team GBR are also responsible for the only 11-point total which again was another foreign raid, this time trans-Atlantic. The big hit coincidentally came in 2011 courtesy of a Mary King one-two, a result that ultimately crowned the British favourite our most recent female world number one in the sport.
THE 12 POINT PODIUM FULL-HOUSEIn both 2009 and 2011, Luhmuhlen had a home 1-2-3 which secured Germany a hefty 12 points on both occasions. In 2009, it was Michael Jung who topped the podium with a first four-star win for the great La Biosthetique Sam – FBW. He was backed-up by Andreas Dibowski and DIrk Schrade on that occasion, and then two years later it was Dibowski who took top honours with Sandra Auffarth and Frank Ostholt tucked in behind.
THE CLOSEST COUNT – 14Burghley 2017 is the closest we have come in ten years to the top-five full-house in the northern hemisphere. It signalled the completion of Chris Bartle’s one-year ‘Great British Rebuilding Project’ with a 1-2-3-4 led home by Oliver Townend. That result turned out to be the beginning of an agonisingly close Grand Slam bid, and it saw Townend finally take the mantle of world number one after his two fruitful visits to Kentucky and Badminton in 2018.
A FIRST FULL-HOUSE ON FOREIGN TURFSo, the crux of the matter is whether the in-form Team GBR can deliver the full knock-out blow at Luhmuhlen 2018 and become the first nation to complete the clean sweep at a foreign four-star. The Eventing Podcast gives a full run-down of the key contenders, but my bet slip would have the names Bulana (Nicola Wilson), Quarrycrest Echo (Piggy French), Billy The Red (Tina Cook), Mr Bass (Laura Collett) and Zenshera (Ros Canter) on it.
For party-spoilers, watch out for the reigning Badminton winner Jonelle Price with her 2015 runner-up Faerie Dianimo. Andreas Dibowski is always a force at his home four-star, and to add some darker horses in to the mix then the first-timer Deniro Z for USA’s Liz Halliday-Sharp is an exciting prospect, as is the more experienced Horseware Stellor Rebound who could give Sarah Ennis a highest four-star result for Ireland this century.
Call it wild speculation for Team GBR this week or call it obscure trivia for the eventing junkies. But either way, consider yourselves educated in the realm of four-star domination and prepared for the mid-season major at Luhmuhlen.