British showjumping medal hopes alive after strong start at European Championships

  • Ben Maher and Explosion W’s stand-out performance in today’s first qualifying competition of the Longines FEI European Showjumping Championships has helped propel Britain into individual and team medal contention.

    The pair were last to jump for the British team and produced a foot-perfect round over Louis Konickx and Quintin Maertens’ technical course to secure third place individually in the opening championship class on Tuesday (22 August).

    All the British combinations jumped well, picking a smattering of unlucky faults to sit in fourth as a team overnight on a score of 9.41 — less than two fences behind provisional leaders Germany.

    “Explosion is naturally a fast horse, he was very excited to be here yesterday and was even fresher than normal,” said Ben. “He feels in great shape and I’m very happy with his position.”

    Ben added Britain has come “trying to win” and while the side is slightly behind the leaders today, the side is “still in with every chance”.

    British team manager Di Lampard told H&H today was a “real strong start for the team”.

    I’m delighted with the way all the horses jumped, Holly and Amanda got us off to a great start, although they were fractionally unlucky, and Ben finished the job masterfully,” she said.

    “I feel as though the four horses — including Scott’s horse [Hello M’Lady] who is a little bit more rusty than the others coming into this championship — went well I think we are in a really good place for tomorrow.

    “The horses are all in absolute fine fettle, they are really well and the riders are relaxed and have worked well together, so we are really looking forward to the rest of the competition.

    “The team spirit is amazing. They have come here on a mission, are really focused and very professional. We are looking towards a medal and qualification for Tokyo hopefully. All we need is a little bit of luck.”

    Germany is sitting in the team gold medal position on a score of 4.22, with three combinations inside the top 10. In second on a score of 5.39 is France, who are among the teams chasing Olympic qualification.

    Sweden is currently in bronze, with their defending European Champions Peder Fredricson and H&M All In heading the individual contest, while defending team champions Ireland are in sixth.

    “It’s nice to get going,” said Peder, adding H&M All In is an “unbelievable horse”. “I think it was a really nice course, you had to get going straight away and make a decision between fences one and two as to whether you wanted to do seven or eight strides. That set the pace for the rest of the course I thought.”

    Amanda Derbyshire served as pathfinder for the British team, producing a quick round with the 11-year-old mare Luibanta BH. The pair were unlucky to tap 12a — a teetering upright on the final line following a tight rollback turn from a big orange oxer at 11 — which added four seconds to their time.

    “I’m feeling pretty excited,” she said. “We’ve got a good start and I wish I didn’t have that fence down, but it was unlucky , she tried hard and was pretty quick everywhere else.”

    Holly Smith and Hearts Destiny, members of the winning Nations Cup team in Dublin last week, showed their class with a strong round. The big-striding bay looked completely in tune with his rider and was unlucky to put a toe in the water.

    “I was delighted with how the horse went, obviously frustrated to have a foot in the water as I thought he jumped fantastically and I could have been right up there [without those added seconds],” said Holly.

    “In the speed round with him, it is about trying to do it in the least possible strides without having to push him an unsettle him. There’s two days of jumping left in the team competition and you don’t want to be rushing them and getting them flat. It is a balance of trying to go quickly without rushing and although I did have a foot in the water, I did achieve that and put a decent score out there.”

    Scott Brash and Hello M’Lady were also unlucky to add eight seconds to their time for a front foot in the water and the back rail on the oxer at 12b.

    “Obviously I’m disappointed with my result, but I think the mare jumped very good and she will only progress and get better as the week goes on,” said Scott. “It was a very good course, not overly big, it is tricky and he played with the colours a lot. There were faults all over it, which is the sign of a good course.”

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    Today’s first round was a speed class, run under table c rules. This means combinations do not receive faults for rolled poles, but instead knock-downs or disobediences result in extra seconds being added to their finishing time.

    The winner takes forwards zero penalties to both the team and individual competitions and combinations are given a score according to the time difference between them and the victor. This is calculated using a coefficient.

    The team competition gets underway at 10am (9am BST) tomorrow and is scheduled to be broadcast live on the BBC red button. Team medals are awarded Friday, with the individual final on Sunday.

    For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday

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