THE Roman hills of Pratoni del Vivaro will host the 2022 FEI Eventing World Championships, 24 years after they hosted the eventing and driving disciplines of the 1998 World Equestrian Games when Ireland pulled out as hosts a year before.
Pratoni is in Rocca di Papa, a small town located 25km south-east of Rome in the Alban volcanic hills. The venue was developed to host the equestrian disciplines of the 1960 Rome Olympic Games and top level sporting events continued with the WEG and a number of championships.
The 2022 World Championships welcomes 90 riders from 27 different countries and offers nations the first opportunity to secure qualification for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. The top seven teams, excluding the host nation France, will earn their early ticket. Ireland qualified for the last Olympics at the first time of trying in Tryon, USA four years ago when they won a team silver medal.
Ireland has won two team medals at eventing world championships; the aforementioned four years ago, and in Burghley 1966 when the team of Virginia Freeman Jackson, Tommy Brennan, Penny Morton and Eddie Boylan won team gold ahead of Argentina, the only two teams to finish. Freeman Jackson won bronze individually that year on Sam Weller.
There have been two individual medals – both silver – since then; John Watson (father to Sam who travels to Pratoni) was second on Cambridge Blue at Lexington in 1978, while Padraig McCarthy (another on the plane to Italy) won silver with Mr Chunky in Tryon four years’ ago.
This year’s Irish team (see below) have a mixture of experience and youth with three Olympians accompanied by two ladies making their senior championship debut. Felicity Ward and Regal Bounty were called up this week following a set back to Joseph Murphy’s Calmaro who was ninth in Kentucky earlier this year.
Acting High Performance director, Dag Albert, commented: “I have chosen a squad that has a huge amount of experience between them and I believe we can get a great result in Pratoni. Our ultimate goal is to get Olympic qualification for Paris 2024 and I believe this is really achievable.”
Who are among the favourites for medals? Of course, Britain are the eventing super nation of the moment and all three members of the gold medal-winning Tokyo Olympic team will line out in Pratoni. Laura Collet (London 52), Oliver Townend (Ballaghmor Class) and Tom McEwen (Toledo de Kerser) are joined by reigning world champion Ros Canter (Lordships Graffalo) and senior debutant Yasmin Ingham (Banzai du Loir).
Collett won Badminton in May and will be among the favourites to take the individual title here too, however she will face stiff opposition, most notably from her own teammates and the 2010 world champion, Germany’s Michael Jung with fischerChipmunk FRH, who set a new five-star record finishing score of 20.1 when winning Kentucky this year.
Not forgetting the Olympic champions Julia Krajewski and Amande de B’Neville who has had three strong four-star runs this year, and the Olympic bronze medallists Andrew Hoy (AUS) and Vassily de Lassos.
Show director Giuseppe della Chiesa is also the cross-country course designer in Pratoni. Della Chiesa designed at Badminton from 2014 and 2016 and will use the natural hilly terrain to create tough going next week. The course for a World Championship is not quite five-star; it is 10 minutes long.
Well known to the pure show jumpers is Uliano Vezzani who will design Sunday’s show jumping track at the championship, so the eventers can expect to have plenty to do over a technical track on the grass arena. Vezzani’s first time designing for eventing was at the test event in Pratoni earlier in the season. The show jumping track will be set at five-star height and will run in reverse order of merit.
All the action will be streamed live on ClipMyHorse.tv (subscription).