While Great Britain’s tremendous winning form from round one couldn’t transcend to Sunday’s Longines FEI Nations Cup Final in Barcelona, Spain (1 October), there was still plenty of reason to celebrate in a tough competition between the top eight teams.
It was instead Team Germany’s turn to triumph – but there were a few heart-stopping moments en route for the quartet in a sizzling afternoon in Barcelona.
An eight-fault opening round over Santiago Varela’s testing track from Jana Wargers (Dorette) certainly had the team sweating and anchorman Richard Vogel was almost jumped out of the saddle by an over-exuberant leap by United Touch S at fence one. But, with Christian Kukuk (Checker 47) and Hans-Dieter Dreher (Elysium) having already posted clears and Richard surviving unscathed, the quartet won the title for the first time since 2016 on a zero score.
Chef d’equipe Otto Becker said: “These guys deserve the win. I’m a lucky guy to be part of this team. We had two down, I got a bit worried, but what they did is unbelievable.”
Jana described it as the “perfect win” and Hansi agreed it had been a “good week” while Christian said the pressure had benefited him.
“I need that a bit,” he said. “I came here with a good feeling – I knew we had a really strong team because all five of us have had great seasons. I was disappointed to have one down on Thursday so I wanted to do better today.”
Nations Cup Final: ‘This course is giving me a headache – take an aspirin!’
Christian only took the ride back on Checker (Comme Il Faut x Come On), who is owned by Madeleine Winter-Schulze and looked after by Sofie Karlsson, when his boss Ludger Beerbaum retired earlier this year.
“He’s in great shape – I would have liked a double clear so i’m disappointed with that, but I’d be nothing without my team-mates,” said Christian. “We had a lot of fun this week and that’s really important for the team spirit.”
Richard was not required to jump on Thursday to secure the team’s third place and qualification as one of the top eight for Sunday’s final, which benefited the 11-year-old Untouched stallion, who is looked after by Felicia Wallin.
“He was very fresh,” he said. “I was hoping I could do something for the team because up to today I felt like a spectator, so I’m glad I delivered. When I saw the course it gave me a headache because the combinations are difficult for my horse – he has such a big stride. I can take out strides down lines with him but not in combinations! I told Otto that a course with two doubles and a treble was giving me a headache. Otto said take aspirin!
“He almost jumped me off at fence one – he likes to do a spectacular jump but maybe he was a bit rusty. He has pure energy, he’s so strong with so much scope.”
Olympic qualification for Brazil from Nations Cup Final
France, defending champions Belgium, and Brazil finished on eight faults in second, third and fourth respectively according to accumulated time.
The celebrations began for Brazil who secured the single qualifying spot on offer for the Paris 2024 Olympics after a tense battle with USA. Agonisingly for USA, there was only a time-fault separating the two nations.
Switzerland, who have yet to win the title, took sixth, with Great Britain and Ireland filling the bottom two placings on 12 and 13 faults respectively.
Great Britain’s hero of the day was 21-year-old Lily Attwood, who jumped the team’s sole clear on Cor-Leon VD Vlierbeek Z, owned by Emmy Freeman-Attwood and looked after by Niki Javorkova. The 13-year-old gelding has had a quieter year after suffering some mild colic relapses, so Lily was “thrilled” with his return and the gelding received huge pats of appreciation from his rider.
“We haven’t had the easiest year so to finish like that was brilliant,” she said.
Harry Charles and Aralyn Blue, who is owned by Ann Thompson and looked after by Georgia Ellwood, came home with four faults, just missing out on a share of the €100,000 double clear bonus, which was split three ways.
Robert Whitaker riding Caroline Blatchford’s King George hero Vermento, who is looked after by Louisa Taylor, and Tim Gredley with Unex Competition Yard’s Medoc De Toxandria, whose groom is Paul Drew, each had two fences down, Tim with a time-fault.
“We all had a good result on Thursday. But having got ourselves in that position, today was always going to be difficult – Lily rode fantastic today though,” reflected Robert. “My horse just showed a couple of little mistakes but this Nations Cup Final is a completely different level for him and he’s coped with it well. I think he’s got a great chance for next year.
“So on the whole, we’ll come away from here thinking there’s a lot to look forward to next year for the Nations Cups.”
‘I’ve really enjoyed this year and I’m so looking forward to next year’: Di Lampard
Great Britain’s chef d’equipe Di Lampard said she “couldn’t have been more proud of the team on the first day – to do it in the style they did”.
“Every one of them put in their clear rounds this week,” she said. “Sunday was a proper course – 18 jumping efforts, but exactly what you expect in Barcelona.
“Lily was a bit rusty at the level on day one, because she hasn’t been competing all summer. One little error on the first day caused a domino effect down the last line. It was absolutely heartbreaking. But to come back and notch up that clear round on Sunday was fantastic. But also no surprise, she’s very capable. It’s all coming together for her.
“With Robert and Vermento we are building another partnership to look forward to next year – Vermento is very inexperienced at this level, but really exciting for next year.
“Harry is a solid member of our team and has been with us all year – it’s amazing how many appearances he’s had this year, how many clear rounds on different horses,” said Di. “He’s backed us 100%.
“Tim is improving all the time, it’s a very different sport to what he was competing in before. He’s had a terrific year.
“So it’s very exciting for next year,” said Di, when the new format Nations Cup comes into play, along with the Paris Olympics to look forward to.
“This year we’ve been short of a couple of partnerships who were good for us last year, so when we get everyone back it’ll be fantastic. It’s such a lovely squad of riders that we’ve used and integrated this year. There’s been a real mix of youth, in both horses and riders, to of course the living legend John Whitaker, who is in and out of the squad when needed. I’ve really enjoyed this year and I’m so looking forward to next year.”
You may also like to read…
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.