The pair, who helped Britain to team bronze and Olympic qualification on Friday, were jumping with their usual class and were desperately unlucky to rub the delicate penultimate upright at fence nine. The crowd sighed as the rail and hoped of a gold medal fell, dropping them into silver.
Jos Verlooy and Igor’s consistency was rewarded with an individual bronze medal to add to their team gold for Belgium.
The pair clipped a rail in the first of the final two rounds, before jumping clear in the second and adding a single time fault to their scoresheet.
Martin and Clooney have come close to the top at championships before, with individual silver at last year’s World Equestrian Games and team bronze at the 2017 Europeans, but this win is their first senior team gold.
The combination lowered one pole in Wednesday’s speed class, but followed up with three clean sheets and added just a single time penalty to their first day score of 3.46 to win.
“This really shows he is one of the best horses — and for me the best horse I could ever wish for,” said Martin, reflecting on the horse’s remarkable career so far.
“It looked very much like I would be second again. My [Global Champions Tour] London Knights team mate Ben has been great over the past two years and especially at these championships again. I did’t think I would be here in gold, that he would make a fault.
“I’m very happy to be winning here and to finally stand up on top of the podium.”
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“All these horses deserve to win at this stage,” said Ben. “Explosion deserved to win, but unfortunately we made a small mistake and I’m very happy for Martin. If anyone has to beat me, I’m happy that it is him.”
Faults were spread throughout the first round from the final 25 competitors. The water jump, which caused many problems over the first two days, jumped well today. It was the final line of a green and white oxer at 11 followed by the red archway double at 12 beneath the public grandstand that caused the most troubles.
Holly Smith and Hearts Destiny looked relaxed and confident with a rhythmical first round and were unlucky to take the final pole. Their score was good enough to propel them into the second round, where they moved further up the leaderboard to finish 10th.
“He was absolutely fantastic, I think his second round today was even better than his first, he was really trying for me and he has shown what a true championship horse he is,” she said.
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