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First and foremost, I’d like to congratulate Hickstead — this year’s Royal International was a classic.
The level of jumping was outstanding; while the conditions in the collecting rings, the arena and the jumps were of the first order.

And as for the level of competition, that was absolutely mind-boggling, right across the board. On a personal note, the show was very bittersweet.

In the Nations Cup, I was pleased with how Fleur De L’Aube jumped.

It was lovely to be back on a Nations Cup team and an honour to be jumping in front of the home crowd.
The team result, however, was sorely disappointing. Relegation was hard to swallow and, on Friday night, it left me feeling very down.

It came as a surprise for us. You only had to look at the mood in the Italian camp to see that they were expecting to be dropped from the first division. When the final result for the league came up on the big screen, they were out buying beers. You’d have thought they’d won.

Because of the anomaly of the allocation of points from Lummen — cancelled at the beginning of the season because of the weather — it was difficult to forecast what we had to do. Until the Hickstead results were in, no one knew how many points the teams that had Lummen as a counting Nations Cup would receive.

That the Italians, who came equal last on Friday, ended up beating us on points didn’t make sense from where we sat; but the rules are the rules.  It didn’t feel as though we had a disastrous performance, but the problem was we had to count an eight-fault performance in round two, and it hit hard.

Even with Rio just two weeks away, we didn’t witness a second-rate Nations Cup. When you see Ludger Beerbaum and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum at a show, you know you’re going to get a tough time.

With selection out of the way for most teams, and the conclusion of the Nations Cup league, it was quite a serious weekend. The sport was definitely the winner.

Hats off to Billy

A special mention has to go to David Simpson, who had a good win in the Queen’s Cup. Billy Twomey, meanwhile, had a show he could have only dreamt about. He’s a super jockey with a lovely team of horses and a lot of confidence in what he’s doing. Hats off to him for his wonderful win in the King’s cup.

I was once again so chuffed with Fleur and how she jumped — she’s been stellar for me at the moment. I had a big smile at the end of the first round, it felt so easy for her. When I walked the course,
I thought there’d be 10 to 12 clears and in the end there were 13. I would challenge anyone to watch that class and not be gripped. The paying public had their money’s worth, which is all we can aim for.

When I came out of the ring 2.5 seconds in the lead, I said to my groom Oscar: “I might not win, but we’ll definitely be in the first three,” so it was a surprise to wind up in fifth place.

That just shows what sort of competition it was — all thrills, spills and entertainment of the highest order.

Ref Horse & Hound; 4 August 2016