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I agree that having a "Welcome back" ride was good advertisement for the NC. Especially if it helped to keep the cost down for entries. (We need more sponsors!!)
However, if it is going to be a Championship ride for the future, it has to be just that. Champions. And not everybody can be a champion.
Of course, if you and I were in the same race, you would definitely be a challenge for Lance and I. We are not at the same level as you right now. (Just check some of our results, we are so way behind you!) So we are not really competing at the same level.  However, if we both had a certain amount of miles under our saddles and top fives in so many rides, we would be a tad more equal. Don't you think? Yes, I know there were qualifications, but I know for a fact some of the riders were not ready to compete at that level, even though they met the qualifications.
And if you and I did have that experience, and then someone else who wanted to race against us, didn't... would that be a challenge to them? Of course, but not necessarily in a good way. It just wouldn't be fair.
When we go to our regional rides, the playing field is pretty equal in the sense that we have rookies, and experienced riders. We have short distances and long distances. There is something for everyone.
But in a Championship ride, it is going to be tougher. It is not for everyone. Only those who have shown that they know what it takes, should be able to qualify. That is more for the sake of the horses, not so much for the competition. Because if that same person who wanted to race against you and I with all our experience (you know, all the miles, top fives and whatever, and let me just add I don't have all that) was not as prepared, what price would the horse pay so that this person could try and keep up? Maybe they could, but maybe they couldn't.
John, my husband is a very good driver under speeding conditions. That doesn't mean he can go out and do the Indy 500. He doesn't have the experience or knowledge the other drivers have and could very well have a bad crash. Besides that, the other drivers would be a little ticked off to know that just because he may have won a few local races, he was still able to get in and race. That is what makes a race "prestigious". The best of the best. Not, whoever wants to race.
You and Rudy were obviously very well prepared for the NC. Yea!! But I would not consider you a rookie. You may be tiny but you are a contender. You have been riding for a while and doing very well. You are becoming a "brand name rider"! We shouldn't accept anything less at a championship ride. A rookie, more than likely, will not be that prepared and could have a serious crash. Having tough qualifications might not keep teams from being pulled. But maybe it could help raise the percentage of completions. By the way, even riders who have been doing this for a long time, still don't know what they are doing. Two top fives could be a fluke and not necessarily proof of a knowledgeable rider.
The Tevis has no qualifications and has a poor completion rate. The NC had relaxed qualifications and didn't have so good a record either. HMMM? Is there a connection here? I don't know. Those who do compete at a championship ride should at least be able to finish. There can only be one winner, but most everyone should be able to finish. At that level, the teams should be at their peak and able to take whatever is dished out, terrain, weather and competitors, all. (excluding accidents, falls or not being able to finish before cocktail hour)
No matter what ride it is, championship or regional, we do need to concentrate on what we can to keep our horses "Fit to continue"  and able to compete year after year, not just try to get them to the finish line. The low completion rates don't make our sport look very good.
You and Rudy looked good, though!
 I wish I could have been there.
The main theme here and always should be how can we make it better for the horses at all levels.
Lisa Salas, The Odd fArm

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