The future of British show jumping received a boost at the weekend when a mainly young and inexperienced Nations Cup team pulled off an impressive second place in the competitive $50,000 Samsung Nations Cup competition at Palm Beach Polo Equestrian Club, in Wellington, Florida.
Veteran of numerous Nations Cup teams, Michael Whitaker (pictured), was accompanied by young team members Ellen Whitaker, Robert Maguire and Vicky Young, who produced inspired performances to finish second behind Ireland’s more experienced squad.
Michael and Portofino 63 set the team off to a fantastic start when, as the very first partnership into the ring, he produced a smooth and effortless clear round over Jose Gamarra’s course of 15 jumping efforts, which included a double and triple combination and an open water jump with a tight time of just 75sec.
The brilliance of Michael’s performance became obvious as clear rounds proved hard to come by with only Ireland’s Kevin Babington and Switzerland’s Gregoire Oberson coming home without faults in the first round. Of the British riders, Robert Maguire managed to leave all the fences up with Mr. Cawley but picked up a time fault along the way, while Ellen Whitaker picked up five faults with AK Locamo 62 and Vicky Young and Royal Dane accumulated 17 to become the discard score.
Despite good performances by the British riders in the second round, the Irish proved unbeatable with Kevin Babington producing the competition’s only double clear, while Conor Swail improved on his first round performance to add nothing to Ireland’s final score.
Michael Whitaker said: “My horse has been going very well and so has Ellen’s so I thought if one of the others could put in a good round we might have half a chance. We were winning after the first round and Ellen’s final clear round secured second place for us.”
He added: “Portafino is as good as she’s ever been. She had two months off after Christmas and has been to two World Cup shows since. She’s just got better through the week and hopefully by the grand prix tomorrow she’ll be better than ever. AK Locarno has been in great form, so I think Ellen’s got a good chance tomorrow and so has Robert.”
British chef d’equipe, Derek Ricketts, was delighted with the team’s performance. He said: “This was very, very good. We didn’t expect to do so well – it is a great result. Michael jumped clear to get us off to a good start. Ellen jumped very well and was unlucky to have one down in the first. Robert Maguire also jumped very well in what was a very competitive competition.”
2. Great Britain
5. United States