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Britain make the grade in Rome

Dutch showjumpers proved their might at Rome this weekend, narrowly beating the British and Italians in a closely fought second round of the second leg of the Samsung Super League series. Hot shots France and Germany failed to match the pace, turning the formbook on its head.

The Dutch put in a neat performance, finishing on a total of eight faults, including a double clear by Eric Van der Vleuten, and two good rounds by both Gert-Jan Bruggink and Albert Zoer.

The Italians put in a good performance from the outset, joining Germany at the top of the table on a zero score after the first round. Germany however wasn’t playing its strongest card this weekend, which took its toll in the second round. Mistakes from all four riders left Germany fighting over fourth place with America and France, who in spite of being strong contenders, couldn’t hold their challenge together.

The competition came to a nail-biting close as pressure was on the host’s last man into the ring, Roberto Arioldi with Loro Piana Lemato. The Italian could have secured a two-way jump off with the Dutch had he stayed clear, but he collected five faults from an uncharacteristic stop in an eventful second round to leave the Italians in third place, behind both the Dutch and the British.

There were only four double clears in the competition. Nick Skelton’s convincing double clear with his Olympic prospect Arko (pictured), couldn’t retrieve the British position in the first round, but along with second round clears from both Michael Whitaker with Portofino and Robert Smith with Mr Springfield sent them rocketing up the leaderboard, moving from seventh into second place.

The Super League series are being seen as a viewing arena for the Olympics, and this weekend all thoughts were of Athens. British riders are still battling it out for the two individual places, while other nations are scrutinising Super League tactics as they save best horses and riders for the Olympics, while avoiding relegation at all costs.

Arko’s performance this weekend puts him in the same class as any other European horse, and his consistency is likely to have done a great deal to have secured a place at Athens. Richard Davenport meanwhile has had to pull out of the next leg of the Super League at Lucerne “due to unforeseen circumstances”.

Samsung Super League 2004 Leaderboard (after round 2 in Rome)

1. Germany 13 points
2. Holland 11.5 points
3. Great Britain 11 points
4. France 10 points
5. USA 6 points

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