Britain’s leg of the Longines FEI Nations Cup series concluded with a thrilling head-to-head between the home side and Ireland today at the BHS Royal International Horse Show.
The Irish team claimed the Prince of Wales trophy after edging more than 2sec ahead in the decider against the clock, with second-placed Britain securing their strongest finish here since 2010.
Following a tie for first place on 16 penalties after two rounds, GB’s Holly Smith (Heart’s Destiny) and Ireland’s Anthony Condon (SFS Aristio) were elected to come forward for the concluding round.
Drawn first, Holly produced a strong clear on this incredibly talented nine-year-old gelding — who has gone from jumping working hunters to nations cups in 12 months — crossing the line in 43.93sec around a big, open track set by course designer Kelvin Bywater.
In advantageous second draw, Anthony and the more experienced 12-year-old took a bold gallop on the long run to the Longines oxer at the last to stop the clock in 41.29sec.
The teams had to contest a dramatic change in the weather, as rain and winds lashed the West Sussex showground following 58 days of drought and scorching temperatures — which had reached 32.7 degrees on Friday.
“I think that it’s no surprise that Ireland and Great Britain were on top today — it was a nice day for them, the weather conditions were not easy,” said Ireland’s chef d’equipe Rodrigo Pessoa.
“In the jump off we had an advantage going after Great Britain and could see what we had to do.
“Anthony still had to do it, it’s not because you go second that it gets any easier,” he added. “We’ve been knocking on the door for a couple of weeks and finally got a win.”
The Irish squad were predominantly UK-based, consisting of locals Trevor Breen — who produced two four fault rounds with the tricky but talented mare Bombay — and Michael Duffy (EFS Top Contender), who jumped a four-faulter and a clear.
Cheshire-based Anthony had a four-fault first round before retiring SFS Aristio after he took the middle part of the combination to save him for the jump off, while Richie Moloney — who has come over from the US for two nations cup appearances — was clear and then knocked the Hickstead planks with Freestyle De Muze.
Britain’s performance was all the more impressive as team pathfinder Scott Brash and the nine-year-old Hello Shelby were eliminated from both rounds after Lady Harris and Lady Kirkham’s nine-year-old said an emphatic no to the water in round one, meaning all scores had to count.
The remaining squad of Holly, Amanda Derbyshire (Luibanta BH) and William Whitaker (Utamaro Des Ecaussines) ably delivered under pressure. Holly had an unlucky back rail of an oxer in each round, while both William and Amanda delivered one clear and one four-fault performance.
“It’s fantastic,” said GB chef d’equipe Di Lampard. “I’m really proud of the riders and how they coped with the change in conditions.
“They worked really well as a team — all five of them as [reserve] Will Funnell was there helping. Nick [Skelton] was also playing a big part — it was real team work.”
A daring turn won the BHS Queen Elizabeth II Cup for a young member of the Whitaker dynasty
The rising star from the Netherlands made his performance count when it mattered in the famous class
“I knew exactly how fast I went last year and how many fewer strides I needed to take [to win]”
The result gains a valuable extra 90 points for Britain, lifting them from the bottom of the league to eighth place after four counting five-star nations cups, with Dublin still to come.
Ireland are now lying in third place of the 10 nations in the super league behind Belgium and Switzerland, and will also post their final points from their home contest in two weeks time.
Nations Cup result
1 – Ireland 8/8/0, 41.29sec
2 – Great Britain 8/8/0, 43.93sec
3 – Brazil 16/4
4 – Sweden 16/8
5 – Belgium 9/16
6 – Italy 16/12
7- Netherlands 16/WD
Full report from the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup of Great Britain at the BHS Royal International Horse Show in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 2 August