Britain’s hopes of qualifying for Rio have suffered yet another blow, as a third top horse has been ruled out of this month’s (19-23 August) FEI European Showjumping Championships.
Ben Maher’s top ride Cella has picked up a “minor injury” and is therefore not available for the British team.
Team GBR performance manager Di Lampard confirmed to H&H today (Friday 7 August) that Cella was definitely off the list, but that the injury was “not career ending”.
“This is obviously another huge loss and sad for Ben who had planned Cella’s preparations for the Euros to a tee,” she added.
Jane Forbes Clark’s 13-year-old grey mare was last seen at the Global Champions Tour (GCT) London leg (25 July) at Syon Park.
The pair had been out competing this summer, starting at Windsor and then Aachen.
They also jumped at the GCT in Cannes and Paris prior to London. In Paris they won a CSI5* class, dead-heating with Egypt’s Karim El Zoghby and Amelia.
Ben declined to comment to H&H about the injury.
Ben impressed when he jumped Diva at last week’s Nations Cup at Hickstead, but it’s not currently clear whether they are in contention for a place on the Europeans team.
“I thought Ben and Diva were outstanding,” said Di after last week’s performance. “Diva is very unexperienced at [championship] level though. We were looking forward to having Cella on the squad.”
This is the second championship disappointment for Ben and Cella.
The pair were ruled out of last summer’s World Equestrian Games just days before the competition started as the mare picked up a “small overreach injury”.
The pair helped Britain win team gold at the European Championships in Denmark in 2013, as well as taking individual silver, so their loss will be keenly felt.
The Europeans are the final chance Britain has to qualify for Rio 2016, after injury and dismal performances at last year’s World Equestrian Games left the country without a spot.
Last month John Whitaker said that his top ride Argento would not be available for selection for the championships as he wouldn’t be suited to the big, grass arena at Aachen.
John’s form this year had suggested him as a strong contender for the Europeans, with Nations Cup team victories and solid performances on the GCT.
Just a week before that, Scott Brash revealed to H&H that he would not be jumping his top ride Hello Sanctos, should he be selected for the team, but that he was putting nine-year-olds Hello M’Lady and Hello Forever forward.
It was not in the horse’s “best interests” to contest both the Europeans and the final leg of the Rolex Grand Slam in Calgary (9-13 September) — where the pair stand to win a €1million bonus.
The Europeans team is expected to be revealed after Dublin Horse Show, giving selector Di time to assess riders during the Nations Cup this afternoon (Friday 7 July).