Over the wilds of the Wicklow Mountains and lush green pastures of Kildare, the elegant but tough all-female French line-up was spot on target for team and individual gold.
A strong performance by Virginie Simon and Elza De Gion, one of six compact, look-alike greys on the French squad, took the individual title. Reflecting the terrain, Virginie’s victory, at a speed of 15.45km per hour, was one of the slowest at this championship level in a decade.
Virginie’s fellow squad members Emilie Lambert and Sunny Demedy, both riding for the team rather than as individuals, completed a clean sweep to take silver and bronze.
The team win was decisive, some 31⁄2hr ahead of silver medallist Portugal with team newcomer Holland in third. The French victory was characterised by efficiency, discipline and focus.
The British, by contrast, encountered bitter disappointment with just one finisher, team captain Sally Hall, who came home in darkness 28th of 29 with Bobs Your Uncle. Sally restored some national pride by crossing the line at a sprint with the clock ticking at the closing vetgate. Defending champion Italy also found little to cheer, with a complete wipe-out.
In the open competition, even the French were no match for an almost seamless performance by UAE riders, who took first, second and third. Team captain Sheikh Mohammed landed the open title with defending champion Provocative, who won last time round with Sheikh Rashid.
Sheikh Rashid, riding best condition winner Gimini Courth House, arrived at vetgates first or second all day and left the penultimate gate a full 10min ahead of his father and Ali Al Mohari and Shikira. However, he opted for the spectacle of an exuberant joint finish for the trio and slowed up over the final loop.
Sheikh Mohammed, whose horse crossed the line a nostril ahead of his fellow riders, said: “We participate in this sport all the time and sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. Today, the luck was with us. I used to give my sons instructions but now they are giving me instructions!”