A busy weekend of show jumping saw the Britain’s stars of the future take the limelight at the Young Rider Nations’ Cup in Compiègne, France, on Friday 3 June.
Lee Williams with Linaro 18, James Billington with Royal Dane, Charlotte Platt with Lacanda and Sophie Heaven with Elmside Orlando flew the flag for Britain and they flew it high.
Fifth in the ring, the British had a good, but not astonishing first round, as Lee William jumped clear but the others collected five faults each. This left the team in fourth place with 10 faults behind the Netherlands with four, Switzerland with eight and France with nine.
But all was set to change during the second round. Billington and Heaven jumped faultlessly, bringing Britain back into the picture. As the French riders all had a fence down and the Swiss didn’t manage to jump a single clear, success became tantalisingly close.
When Williams produced a superb second round to become the only rider in the show to jump a double clear, only Dutch rider Dominique Greeve and Pastelhof de Galeyc stood between Britain and victory. But Greeve fell, quashing Dutch hopes for good, and Britain won the Young Rider Nations Cup on their first round score. The Netherlands followed with 12 faults and France was a distant third with 21.
“The team were brilliant,” said British chef d’equipe Mike Florence. “The track was big and very tricky and I would have been pleased just to finish in the first four. Today was a really big test and has been a great warm up for the European championships.”
Friday also saw the senior team engage in the third leg of the Samsung Super League in St Gallen, Switzerland, where they had a slightly more disappointing result than the young riders. After their brilliant performance in Rome, hopes were high but being first into the ring perhaps didn’t help. Although William Funnell and Mondriaan jumped a perfect double clear, it wasn’t enough to offset the faults collected by the rest of the team over Olaf Petersen’s “classical” course.
Britain was second from last at the end of the first round, after Ellen Whitaker and Locarno had two fences down and a time fault, while Portofino, the mount of Whitaker’s uncle, Michael, had a foot in water.
The second round went much better, as Ellen Whitaker and Robert Maguire both had just one fence down, but it still left Britain at 21 faults in equal fifth with Ireland. France claimed the day with four clear rounds, two of which were perfectly produced by Eugenie Angot and Cigale du Taillis.
“To ride number four on a team is a hard thing to do but today [Cigale du Taillis] did really good and I’m very happy for her and for the team,” Angot said on Friday. “After Rome, [French chef d’equipe Jean-Marie Bonneau] was a bit sad but today we make him happy again!”
Just one fault set the US apart from Britain, but it was enough to give the American team sole leadership of the Super League with 21 points. Britain follows at 19.5 with the French in third position at 17.
Michael Whitaker had a better day in St Gallen on Sunday, when he and Portofino (pictured) won the Longines Grand Prix der Schweitz. The competition had not started well for Whitaker, who was last into the ring after Portofino lost a shoe. But the farrier worked his magic and a faultless performance in the first round put the pair in good stead. They went on to jump a perfect second round, beating Germany’s Ludger Beerbaum and L’Espoir by more than five seconds.
Hundreds of miles away from St Gallen, Michael’s brother, John, stole the show in Lisbon on Friday, where he won the Grand Prix Audi with Exploit du Roulard. Whitaker had to fend off fierce competition by Dutch rider Piet Raymakers and Van Schijndel’s Now or Never, whom he beat by a whisker.
John Whitaker, Ben Maher, Robert Whitaker and Robert Smith also took part in the Samsung Nations Cup on Sunday. The British team finished with 20 faults on par with the Dutch and they went to a jump-off. Robert Whitaker and Nicolette represented Britain in the jump-off, where they picked up nine faults. Unfortunately, Dutch rider Piet Raymakers Jr managed to collect one fewer fault and the British were pipped to the post.
However, Chef d’Equipe Clare Whitaker was more than happy with her team’s result. “All in all we’ve had a very good show,” she said. “We finished in the top two in every class during the first two days, won the Grand Prix and came second in the Nations’ Cup team event, which is fantastic. They’ve all done extremely well.”