Millar seeks best combos for his team

STEVE MACFARLANE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:13 PM ET

CALGARY — There is plenty of time for Terrence (Torchy) Millar to name his team for the World Equestrian Games this fall.

The outgoing Canadian chef d’equipe and current partner Mark Laskin, who takes over duties full-time next year, may need every minute available to ensure the best hottest horse/rider combinations are sent to Kentucky in October.

Millar and Laskin have been watching as much action as possible at the Spruce Meadows National this week, and will do the same all summer at the Continental, Skyliner Canada One and North American tournaments here, but may not get a glimpse of some of the country’s top horses until the Masters in early September.

“We have three of our top horses that have been on the injured list and are coming back,” said Millar. “All you can ever do in those cases is be optimistic, or guardedly optimistic, and just see how it comes.

“Fortunately, we don’t have to name our final five horse/rider combinations until the 28th of September.”

Four combos and an alternate duo shouldn’t be too difficult to come by for a country that finished second at the 2008 Beijing Games just two years ago, but Ian Millar’s mount In Style, Jill Henselwood’s top horse Special Ed, and Mac Cone’s gelding Ole have all been injured in the last year and haven’t yet returned to competition.

“Those are three horses that have proven they can jump at the Olympic level,” Torchy Millar said. “I’m not trying to say it’s a slam dunk — horses still have to prove they can perform. Unfortunately, they’re going to miss this series and this summer.

“If they do come back and do some shows and look like they’re in form, then hopefully they’d be at the Masters.

“We don’t want to discard them just because they couldn’t make it here.”

Only Eric Lamaze’s Hickstead has been healthy since he won individual gold in China.

He’s shown this week there’s a fine group of young horses for future competitions.

Millar is gaining confidence in other riders and horses as well should any of the other three be unable to show at their best in Kentucky.

“There’s certainly four horse/rider combinations that have proven they can compete at the very top level. I think we have a few people that could, if all of them don’t make it, can step in and fill the other spots,” Millar said. “And if you have a good day, we can be competitive.

“It always has to be your day in this sport, no matter how good a team.”

Beth Underhill and Top Gun, Keean White on Chanel, Karen Cudmore on Southern Pride and Yann Candele on Pitareusa have all shown they can compete with upper-echelon combos.

Jonathan Millar came into the National looking consistent, and John Anderson could also be considered.

Underhill and Candele joined Lamaze and Cone to claim the Nations’ Cup in Wellington, Fla., last month, proving the country can mix and match.

“People thought, wow, Ian (Millar) not on the team. It hasn’t happened in a long time,” Torchy Millar said. “But without a horse ... if you don’t have the Formula One car, you’re not going to go to the track.

“I’d say there’s encouraging depth at the next tier down.”

steve.macfarlane@sunmedia.ca


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