Thriller of a three-way jump-off decides Hickstead Nations Cup

  • France took the British leg of the Longines Nations Cup in a thriller of a three-way jump-off at the Royal International Horse Show, with Germany second and Brazil third.

    Speedy Frenchman Marc Dilasser, on Arioto Du Gevres (pictured), had been the drop score in the second round for his team, clocking up 12 faults, but he and the 12-year-old Diamant De Demilly gelding flew for clear in their third round, finishing almost a second ahead of Germany’s Tobias Meyer on Greatest Boy — H. The Brazilian jump-off contenders, Francisco Jose Mesquita Musa on Alea Marathon, had the second jump-off fence down to finish a second and a half slower than Tobias.

    French chef d’equipe Henk Nooren said: “The whole competition was so close in the first round and it stayed tight in the second; it could have gone in any direction. It was a really exciting afternoon and exciting competition. After Marc had his misunderstanding with his horse in the second round, he had to deliver and thank god, like so many times, he did. Halfway through the second round, I said to Marc’s groom ‘It smells like a jump-off’, and that was always the plan.”

    Anchorman Kevin Staut, who jumped for four and clear on Visconti Du Telman, said a Nations Cup competition is very intense.

    “Ask all the riders and at the end of the day, they’re exhausted,” he said. “It’s just riding one horse and two rounds but it’s so emotional to watch, and you can’t do anything; you’re on the side, jumping higher yourself, but it doesn’t help! To remember my rounds, I have to go back to the hotel and watch on my phone, but I’m so pleased to be part of the team. We had a great afternoon.”

    Olivier Robert, who jumped clear and four on Vivaldi Des Meneaux, added that watching Tobias’s round, he thought it was all over, but “Marc did something incredible”.

    Edward Levy, who had 16 faults on the first round on Uno De Cerisy but jumped clear in the second, added: “I was disappointed but the team was great, like nothing had happened, and I stayed focused for the second round. I’ve got a generous horse who gives me everything, and I’m happy to be able to help this team.”

    All three teams had finished on eight faults after two rounds of jumping, and although Britain finished in sixth place, this was only a fence behind; Belgium and Ireland had also both finished on 12 faults but their times were faster, which pushed Britain down.

    Britain was fielding three of its riders for the World Championships (6-14 August) in this Royal International leg; Harry Charles jumped a superb double clear on his direct reserve ride Casquo Blue, travelling reserves John Whitaker and Equine America Unick Du Francport rolled a pole and the Hickstead planks in the first round then jumped a foot-perfect clear, and Ben Maher and his direct reserve ride Faltic HB rolled three poles in the first round but also rallied for a class clear in the second. World Championships reserve combination Jodie Hall McAteer and Salt ‘N Peppa jumped strongly but were unlucky to clip a pole in each round.

    “I’m a bit shell-shocked,” said performance manager Di Lampard. “We had a really good feel about the team and thought we’d finish better than sixth. It was very close, but that’s how the sport is today; very fine margins.”

    Di said it was positive the way the riders rallied for a stronger team performance in the second round, adding: “It was brilliant. Harry was fantastic with double clear again, after Aachen, which was brilliant, and Jodie was great too; a great home debut for her, and she was unlucky.”

    Di added that she is looking forward to the championships, saying: “We’ve got to be disappointed with the result but the horses jumped well.”

    Harry said he was “absolutely thrilled” to jump double clear in front of a home crowd.

    “The horse jumped amazing, and his owners came over, which was nice, to give them a double clear. He’s my direct replacement [for Herning] and I know I have a credible second option.

    “It was disappointing, we thought we had a good chance to win today… but we came out in the second round with three fantastic clears, and it’s a shame not to have moved up.”

    The top showjumping action continues all weekend at the Royal International, with the Queen Elizabeth II cup on Saturday and the King George V Gold Cup on Sunday.

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