Britian’s THB British Equestrian-sponsored show jumping team of Robert Smith (Marius Claudius), William Funnell (Cortaflex Mondriaan), Michael Whitaker (Mozart Des Hayettes) and John Whitaker (Peppermill) triumphed over France after a tense Samsung Super League Nations Cup at Hickstead.
Helped by a super clear from William and Mondriaan, the Britons lay in second place at the halfway stage, but they had five faults to make up on the French. Things changed around in round two, with Ireland and the USA both producing zero scores to shoot up the leaderboard to equal third and fifth respectively. But the real battle was between the netherlands, France and the home side.
Robert Smith and “Claude” set the British fightback rolling with a great clear, which was matched by Michael and Mozart, albeit with one time-fault. Everything depended on the final riders. If John Whitaker could go clear, Britain would win.
John had to use every ounce of his experience. In the first round Peppermill looked tired after his trip here after winning the grand prix at San Patrignano in Italy and lowered three fences for the discard score. But the Yorkshireman and his nine-year-old partner produced the most wonderful round and the prize belonged to Britain.
William Funnell afterwards summarised the feelings of the rest of the team when he said: “I just want to thank John for such a great round under pressure. Having him on the team made all the difference.”
This result was double delight for Peppermill’s former rider Stuart Harvey, who earlier won the 1.30m title on Team Unex’s Viko II. And France did manage to get the better of Britain in the earlier Osborne Refrigerators speed. Michael Whitaker held the lead with a lovely round on Insultech Portofino, but young Frenchman David Jobertie, making his first visit to Hickstead, flew round on Triomphe De Muze to win by almost 5sec.
As so often before, Louise and Robert Bell were unbeatable in the Kelanne Stud working hunter classes, winning both sections with Cruise Control and Out of Sight, who also stood champion and reserve.
Form was also upheld in the amateur hunters, where Lucinda Henson took the honours on Early Rising, with Emma Gibson and Shelford Rupert reserve.
Alastair Hood took the riding horse title from the small class on Captain Hastings. Reserve went to Simon Charlesworth on a certain star of the future, the four-year-old Golden Heights gelding, Hillocks Rustic Gold.