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Todd and NZB Gandalf Strengthen Olympic Bid

Todd and NZB Gandalf Strengthen Olympic Bid

After an eight-year sojourn from the International Three-Day Eventing scene, Mark Todd with his NZ-bred mount, NZB Gandalf, produced a pleasing performance in France over the weekend to strengthen their case for selection in the five-strong New Zealand Olympic team.

A qualifying score at Saumur, in France's Loire Valley, was the last piece of the puzzle for New Zealand Bloodstock-sponsored Todd, and his grey gelding, to be added to the NZ Olympic Eventing shortlist.

The pair sat in 25th place after the dressage with 53.90 penalty points, well under the maximum for a qualifying score of 75. Jumping clear around the 5.74km cross country, which included 26 jumping elements, in a time of 10.46 he however finished just over the optimum time of 10.05 to incur 16.40 time penalties. With many riders that were placed above him after the dressage incurring hefty penalties, the combination moved into 13th place.

Todd and NZB Gandalf compeating at Arran Station earlier this year.

In the final phase, the show-jumping, NZB Gandalf handily left all the rails up but finishing just 0.02 seconds over the optimum time to add one more fault for a final score of 71.30. Again, with combinations above them incurring faults they moved up into their final sixth position.

Fellow Kiwi riders Andrew Nicholson and Tim Price finished above Todd and NZB Gandalf in fourth and fifth places respectively.

If he makes the team, it will be Todd's first trip to Hong Kong, where the equestrian codes of the Beijing Olympics will be conducted, and a phenomenal comeback by a sporting legend. Five riders will be selected for the NZ Olympic team by the end of June, four as part of the team event, plus one individual contender.

Todd reported he was really pleased with Gandalf's performance and he now plans to take the ten-year-old thoroughbred-cross back to their base in England to continue improving their partnership over the coming months.

Throughout his career Mark Todd has been an inexorable force in the gruelling sport. His debut at the prestigious Badminton horse trials in England, arguably the toughest test of horse and rider, at age 24, was the start of his winning way. He also won the European Championships in 1997, was part of the gold medal winning NZ Eventing Teams at the 1990 and 1998 World Championships, won five times at Burghley in England, and won 20 or more other international events.

Beyond all this, the 52 year-old has forged an enviable Olympic record. He won back-to-back individual gold medals with Charisma, at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and the 1988 Seoul Olympics, becoming the first rider to win successive three-day-event titles for 60 years. In addition to these, he won three medals as part of the New Zealand Olympic Eventing Team, helping to secure bronze at Seoul in 1988, silver at Barcelona in 1992, and retiring from competition with an individual bronze at Sydney in 2000.

His outstanding Olympic record saw him crowned with Equestrian sport's highest honour, being acclaimed the Rider of the 20th Century by the sport's governing body, the International Equestrian Federation.

His horsemanship is not only attested to by the events he's won, but also by the sheer brilliance of his performances highlighted by riding the last two-thirds of the cross country at Badminton in 1995 with just his right stirrup iron after his left one broke. He also represented NZ twice in the separate Show Jumping discipline at the Olympics.

Todd and Gandalf's Olympic bid is being sponsored by New Zealand Bloodstock. Marketing Manager Petrea Vela of the venture, "It is our privilege to sponsor such an iconic New Zealand horseman as Mark Todd and we are delighted that he is having another shot at Olympic glory. He's a wonderful role model for the equestrian industry, and for New Zealand, and we will be offering all the support we can to help him succeed in Hong Kong."


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