This year’s Queen Elizabeth II Cup again went to America after Laura Kraut and her 14-year-old Anthem jumped the only double clear in the prestigious ladies-only competition.
Last year, America’s ladies took the top three placings, but this time the jump-off turned into an American-British battle when Laura and her compatriot Kimberley Prince (Couletto K James) were joined by Nicky Boulter (Norolient JE) and Jane Annett (Cullawn Diamond).
Jane was first to go, but her Irish-bred bay lowered three fences while she tried to set the target. Nicky and her Dutch-bred mare then left two poles on the floor.
With the door wide open, the Americans took full advantage. Kimberley’s big bay left a toe on the gate and was otherwise clear, but Laura and Anthem then jumped a fabulous round to capture the £3,000 prize.
This is the Wisconsin-based riders first visit to Hickstead. “I’ve seen it on the TV, but the reality is even better than I thought,” said Laura, who next travels to Dublin and Aachen.
American delight continued at a rainy Hickstead on Sunday afternoon when another first-time visitor, Jeffrey Welles, jumped the only double clear to win the King George V Gold Cup.
New York-based Jeffrey, 43, kept his cool admirably from final draw on Authentic, his Dutch-bred 10-year-old by Guidam, holding off a strong British challenge.
2004 runners-up Nick Skelton and Russel again had to settle for second place, albeit with a much-improved performance from John Hales’s stallion.
“I don’t know why Russel was so bad in the Nations Cup,” said Nick philosophically. “But this arena is one of the most difficult in the world. Calgary and Aachen are easy by comparison.”
Third place went to David McPherson after a great performance on the Irish mare Bob’s Diamond, while more hope for the future came with the fifth spot for 19-year-old Tim Gredley with Fabriana, just ahead of Robert Whitaker (Nicolette II).
“It’s a huge honour to compete in such a historic class, let along win it,” said Jeffrey, whose only other visit to Hickstead was as a spectator 19 years ago.