The British team clinched victory in Rome for the second year running at the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup.
Performance manager Di Lampard’s team comprising John Whitaker (Ornellaia), Ben Maher (Tic Tac), Jessica Mendoza and her mare Spirit T and Michael Whitaker and Cassionato finished on a four-fault score after two rounds.
France and the USA settled for the runner-up spot, with both nations completing on 12 faults.
Exemplifying why at 60 years old he is still at the top of the sport, John’s second-round clear sealed the result even though he and Ornellaia had one fence in hand.
“This was Ornellaia’s first Nations Cup and she showed what she can do. She has done some good things already,” said John. “She’s really careful and she’s the one for Rio if I am needed. I’m definitely keen to go — the Olympics are the Olympics and there’s nothing like them.
“I don’t feel the pressure any more, I’ve done everything I’ve ever wanted to do so now I just go out and enjoy myself — I’ve got nothing to prove,” added John, who also confirmed Argento won’t be available for Rio selection.
“Argento is a great horse, he’s a real fighter but he has his limits and I don’t want to push him beyond them,” he explained.
Michael’s enigmatic Cassionato was “a bit too fresh” in the first round and was the team’s discount score with nine faults. However, the pair pulled it back in the second round with a foot-perfect display that was pivotal to the end result.
The quartet’s win in Rome will certainly be food for thought for Di ahead of the Rio Olympics — perhaps making the team selection all the more difficult. “It’s a really good problem to have,” she said following the triumph.
Ben Maher was pleased with his new ride Tic Tac. They left all the poles up in the first round but, along with Jessica Mendoza, made minor errors in the second round. Ben knocking two fences and Jessica having one down.
“I started riding Tic Tac in January — I’m still getting to know him but he has a lot of experience and I’m looking forward to the future with him,” said Ben.