‘Bring it on’: from 68-year-old Olympic legend to 24-year-old sensation – meet the British team for today’s Hickstead Nations Cup

  • Hooray, it’s Hickstead Nations Cup day! At 2.15pm today (Friday, 28 July), the British leg of the Longines FEI Nations Cup series takes place at the Longines Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead and we can’t wait.

    A total of eight different countries are lining up to battle it out for top honours and a €200,000 prize pot, as well as vital points in the overall series. France are the title-holders having won the Hickstead Nations Cup event in 2022 and this year they bring an in-form squad including their star rider Olivier Robert riding Iglesias DV.

    Ireland have an excellent record at Hickstead and have been drawn first in the two-round competition. Flying the flag will be Hickstead-based Shane Breen (Cuick Star Kervec), Mark McAuley (GRS Lady Amaro), Jack Ryan (BBS McGregor) and US-based Daniel Coyle on the brilliant Legacy.

    Among the other leading names representing their nations are Marcus Ehning for Germany on DPS Revere and Laura Kraut of USA riding Dorado 212.

    Great Britain hasn’t won on home soil since 2010, but Di Lampard has selected a red hot quartet to fly the Union flag, so who are this year’s British showjumping Hickstead Nations Cup contenders?

    Hickstead Nations Cup British team riders

    BEN MAHER: The Hertfordshire rider is the reigning Olympic champion and a team gold medallist from London 2012 and will act as pathfinder for this contest on home soil. He rides 14-year-old Exit Remo (San Remo x Ferro), owned by Pamela Wright and Charlotte Rossetter. Ben, 40, has been a regular on Nations Cup teams this season, including as part of the second-placed squad in Aachen last month. Ben only started riding the gelding last year and this will be their first team appearance as a duo.

    TIM GREDLEY: It has been 17 years since the Newmarket-based showjumper last contested a championship, but after a sabbatical from the sport, the 37-year-old has returned to the top tier this year and is arguably in the best form of his life. He rides his own Medoc De Toxandria, an 11-year-old by Der Senaat x Kelvin De Sainte Hermelle in the Hickstead Nations Cup.

    “Medoc is unique! Now I’ve got to know him I find it easy, but he has a special way of doing things,” says Tim. “He’s got personality like I’ve never seen. After jumping one of the biggest grands prix in the world, he’ll come out like there’s no adrenaline in him whatsoever, he finds it so easy and he enjoys life.”

    JOHN WHITAKER: The 68-year-old showjumping legend needs little introduction, having been a British team stalwart for the past four decades, representing his country in Olympics, World Cup Finals and world and European championships. The Yorkshireman rides his top horse Equine America Unick Du Francport, AKA Frank, a 15-year-old by Zandor with whom he competed in the Hickstead Nations Cup last year and the pair jumped a spectacular double clear in the Nations Cup of Rome recently.

    “I was lucky enough to find Unick, who’s kept me going a bit longer,” John reflects. “He’s been so good for me and we just keep ticking along.”

    HARRY CHARLES: At just 24, Hampshire-based Harry is the youngest member of the team representing Great Britain at Hickstead today, but he’s a veteran of an Olympic Games in Tokyo and won team bronze at last year’s world championships. His father Peter Charles won Olympic gold in London 2012 and was part of the last Nations Cup team to have won on home soil in 2010, while his two sisters Sienna and Scarlett also compete at the top of the sport. Harry has reigned as the highest ranked under-25 rider in the world for a considerable time. He has an enviable string of horses but has chosen to bring Stall Zet’s 13-year-old Casquo Blue (Chacco Blue x Carthago Z) and this classy duo will act as anchorman for the two-round Nations Cup on Friday afternoon. The pair jumped a phenomenal double clear in the recent Falsterbo Nations Cup, as well as last year’s competition here at Hickstead, where the team finished sixth.

    “You can’t do better than a double clear in a Nations Cup, especially here at home,” expressed Harry – can he repeat the feat in 2023?

    “Bring it on”

    The team chef d’equipe Di Lampard is targeting her first Nations Cup win on home soil and says ahead of the event: “It’s really exciting and I’m really looking forward to it. We’ve got a strong team with experience, so bring it on.

    “I couldn’t count how many Nations Cups John Whitaker has jumped at Hickstead, but he’s got the experience, he jumped very well for us a few weeks ago [in Rome] so we are hoping he can repeat that for us,” she adds. “Young Harry Charles was double clear a couple of weeks ago [in Falsterbo], the youngest member of the team being our anchor man this week and let’s hope it works out for us.

    “I’m happy with being third in the draw, and I look at it as third time lucky – we were second in Aachen, and second again in Falsterbo two weeks ago, so let’s hope the third time we’re going to get a win. You feel so proud to be walking out in front of your own team in front of a home crowd at the Nations Cup at Hickstead, and the riders feel proud as well, they want to be successful,” she says.

    Stay tuned, this year’s Hickstead Nations Cup looks set to be a thriller.

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