The Great Britain team of John Whitaker (Argento), Michael Whitaker (Cassionato), Robert Whitaker (Catwalk IV) and Holly Gillott (Dougie Douglas) won the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup at Piazza di Siena in Rome, Italy on Friday (22 May). This comes on the back of another outstanding Team GB success in the Nations Cup of La Baule, France, the week before.
“It was absolutely fantastic. My job is made very easy by having a fantastic squad of riders, who were fabulous last week in La Baule and were fabulous today,” said the team performance manager Di Lampard.
The win was all the more important as Rome marked the first of Great Britain’s chosen point-scoring rounds in the series and a maximum score sets them up for their remaining three challenges in Rotterdam, Hickstead and Dublin.
The three Whitakers produced impeccable clear rounds in the first round, with Holly Gillott’s 12 penalties being the discard score after her 10-year-old chestnut gelding resented a little the exceptionally wet, sloppy ground following torrential rain and hail in the hours preceding the class.
The Leicestershire-based 25-year-old came back for the second round with a much better performance: increased confidence in the fast-improving ground conditions meant a fluid, flawless round allowing Britain to keep reigning Furusiyya champions, the Netherlands, at a distance. Robert Whitaker’s otherwise perfect round was marred by an unlucky mistake at the very last fence, while Michael produced a very careful round with one time penalty.
This meant that the nail-biting finale was down to the last combination, that of John Whitaker and Argento. Because of his brother’s single time fault, one fence down on John’s part would have meant a Dutch win.
In a classic last-to-go performance, the 59-year-old kept his cool and, with one of only four double clears over the Uliano Vezzani-designed course, produced a perfect round to seal the win for Britain.
“I was very pleased — it is a great one to win, as it is a counting one for us,” said John.
Don’t miss the full report from Rome in next week’s issue of Horse & Hound, out Thursday 28 May.