British showjumping team manager Di Lampard has told H&H she is “extremely excited” about this afternoon’s (Friday 31 July) Nations Cup at Hickstead.
The competition will hopefully reveal vital clues as to who might be representing Great Britain at this summer’s FEI European Showjumping Championships.
The Europeans team is expected to be revealed after Dublin Horse Show — giving team selector Di time to assess riders at both the Hickstead (31 July) and Dublin (7 August) legs of the Nations Cup series.
And the pressure is on as 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.
“I’m starting to get very excited now, we have a good squad of riders to select the team from,” Di told H&H.
However, the British showjumping team for the European Championships suffered a further blow at the weekend after John Whitaker revealed that he would not be making his top ride Argento available for selection.
“Argento is a fantastic horse, but he loves smaller arenas and isn’t quite as competent in a big grass arena,” he said. “Aachen is a unique place. He always tries his best and I don’t want to break his heart in something he’s not comfortable in.”
World Class performance manager Di Lampard told H&H she was “not surprised” but naturally “disappointed” by the news.
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.
“It is disappointing that we don’t have John on a long-list for the Europeans, but I very much respect all the riders’ opinions on their horses,” Di told H&H. “It’s the old phrase ‘horses for courses’, Argento is 13 and still improving and John knows what arenas will suit this horse.
“Aachen is a very daunting arena, you need to have bold horses to compete there and I have to respect his decision.”
Earlier this month 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 €1m (£710,000) bonus.
Scott will be taking part in the King George V Cup at Hickstead and will also be making this season’s Nations Cup debut at Dublin, so is still very much on Di’s radar for the championships.
The riders named for the Hickstead Nations Cup team are Holly Gillott (Dougie Douglas), Ben Maher (Diva II), Jessica Mendoza (Spirit T); Michael Whitaker (Cassionato) and Guy Williams (Titus II).