Tough Break for WEG: Zara Phillips and Toytown Will Not Defend Their World Championship This Fall

by Fran Jurga | 8 March 2010 | The Jurga Report at

It’s like deja vu all over again. It was sad to write then, and it’s sad to write now.

A year and a half ago, I wrote a heartfelt blog post announcing that one of my favorite Irish sport horses, Toytown, would not be headed to Hong Kong as part of the British team for the 2008 Olympics. Most people don’t know much about Toytown, because he is so overshadowed by the fame of his rider, England’s Zara Phillips, who happens to be the granddaughter of the Queen.

Oddly enough, her father, Captain Mark Phillips, is coach for the US eventing team.

But Zara and Toytown are something else. They are the reigning world champions of eventing, having won at the 2006 World Equestrian Games at Aachen. And they were European eventing champions before that. But since then, Toytown’s soundness has been spotty, and he was pulled from Hong Kong after making the team.

Now you can watch that BBC video and just substitute “Kentucky” for “Hong Kong” wherever it appears, and “Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games” for “Olympics”.

That’s right. One of the expected stars, who would have guaranteed WEG front page, above-the-fold coverage in media around the world, announced today that Toytown’s soundness issues are too much to push him to qualify for Kentucky. The beautiful big guy may even be retired.

Click here for Pippa Cuckson’s coverage of today’s announcement in the British Telegraph newspaper.

Does Zara have a horse waiting in the wings who can make the team in time for Kentucky? There is always that chance; let’s see if her name is on the entries for Rolex Kentucky, or if she plans to run at Badminton. But she’ll be competing against a legion of top riders who have been campaigning for Britain’s Kentucky team on seasoned horses. No country has the depth of rider-and-horse combos that Britain’s team selectors have.

Zara’s announcement was made this morning at her training center at Gatcombe Park in Gloucestershire, at a press conference held by Rolex, one of her sponsors. Zara is associated by sponsorship or advertising appearances with the Royal Bank of Scotland, Rolex, Land Rover and Musto clothing. She was the first member of the Royal Family to appear in an ad.

And Toytown has been the horse who has been identified with her international success. All the vets in the kingdom haven’t been able to keep him sound and while it is disappointing for everyone here in the USA that she almost certainly will not be riding for Great Britain next fall, how nice for Toytown not to be stressed and stretched for one more notch in her royal belt.

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