Nick Skelton in epic battle for Nations Cup crown

  • Great Britain missed out on victory in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup final in Barcelona on Saturday (24 September) by the narrowest of margins and are now expected to face relegation to division two of the series next season.

    In a thrilling and high quality competition under the spotlights, the title was decided by a jump-off between Great Britain and Germany, with both teams finishing on a zero score.

    Nick Skelton and Big Star lined up for Great Britain having jumped a double clear in the two-round competition which began on Thursday. The Olympic champions maintained their faultless record, stopping the clock in 41.57sec as Big Star relished the change in pace and soared round in style.

    But his challenger was Marcus Ehning with the shorter striding Pret A Tout, who cut some daring turns to record the winning time of 39.80sec, meaning Germany were crowned champions. It was a fitting farewell to Germany’s anchorman Ludger Beerbaum, who was jumping in his last ever team competition.

    “I was really under pressure – I wanted this win for Ludger as it was his last Nations Cup,” said Marcus.

    Three of Team GB’s riders jumped clear over a fiendishly testing track set for this season finale. As well as pathfinders Nick and Big Star, Michael Whitaker (Viking) and Scott Brash (Ursula XII) also maintained a clean sheet while Jessica Mendoza and Spirit T produced the squad’s discard score of 12 faults. This was the second year in a row that Great Britain has taken the runner-up spot in the Nations Cup final.

    “We were always going for it and the team showed really good fighting spirit, so there was some disappointment having got so close,” Great Britain’s performance manager Di Lampard told H&H. “But it’s something you have to get used to in this sport.”

    USA finished third of the eight teams through to Saturday’s final with a four-fault total. Italy, Ireland and Switzerland all finished on five faults but took fourth, fifth and sixth respectively according to their times.

    The Longines Challenge Cup, the consolation class for the remaining 10 teams, was scheduled to take place on Friday night but was cancelled due to torrential rain and it was announced that Spain would therefore be promoted to division one next season. However the competition has now been rescheduled for Sunday morning.

    Don’t miss the full report from the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup final, with rider reactions and expert opinion from Graham Fletcher in next week’s Horse & Hound, out 29 September.

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