An impressive win in the Aga Kahn Cup in Dublin last Friday has propelled the British Nations’ Cup team into second position in the 2005 Samsung Super League. The victory is the second win for the British team in the league, which is currently headed by Germany with the United States in third position.
After disappointing performances in the European Championships in Italy and at the Nations’ Cup at Hickstead last month, the professionalism and experience of Britain’s four-strong team has shone through at an opportune moment, giving the British their 22nd victory since the Dublin records began back in 1926.
First round clears from Nick Skelton (Arko III), William Funnell (Cortaflex Mondriaan) and Michael Whitaker (Portofino) put the British into a commanding position. The Hales’ 11-year-old stallion, Arko, went on to gain the only double clear of the competition.
“The horse was just tired in Italy. He’d been jumping a lot and had just come back from Calgary, but he’s rested now so he was much better today,” said Skelton.
Frederic Cottier’s meticulously designed show jumping course kept spectators on the edge of their seats as it caught out many of the world’s best riders. “It looked quite simple when we were walking it, but there were faults everywhere and plenty of problems for everyone,” William Funnell remarked.
A double of ditches with white rails caused plenty of excitement and a tight line from the triple bar at nine to a short treble of vertical to oxer to vertical, tested impulsion and control.
There were tense moments for the British team in the second round with 16 faults from John Whitaker and 12 from Funnell. With the German team threateningly close, Michael Whitaker had just one fence in hand as he came entered the arena as the last competitor. But despite losing his stirrups before the final two fences, he finished with just one pole down and a single time penalty leaving the British in pole position, one penalty ahead of the Germans.
“All jumping rounds are hard when you have to go clear to win, but today I had a bit of leeway even though I used it up. I didn’t think I had a time fault,” said Whitaker afterwards.
Despite providing the discount score for his team in both rounds, John Whitaker (Exploit du Roulade) was still smiling at the end of the competition when the assembled press-pack sang a loud “Happy Birthday” in celebration of his 50th birthday.
The penultimate leg of the 2005 series is at Aachen (23 to 28 August) with the final competition in Barcelona (15 to 18 September).
Aga Kahn Cup results
1. BRITAIN – 17 faults – Arko (Nick Skelton) 0/0, Exploit du Roulard (John Whitaker) 5/16, Cortaflex Mondriaan (William Funnell) 0/12, Portofino (Michael Whitaker) 0/5.
2. GERMANY – 18 faults – Diamonds Daylight (Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst) 1/0, Asti Spumante (Thomas Muhlbauer) 4/8, Carino (Ulrich Kirchhoff) 4/1, Farina (Rene Tebbel) 17/13.
=3. BELGIUM – 24 faults – Osta Rugs Quintus (Jean-Claude Vangeenberghe) 8/15, Mozart des Hayettes (Gregory Wathelet) 4/4, Clinton (Dirk Demeersman) 12/4, Cavalor Cumano (Jos Lansink) 0/4.
= 3. USA – 24 faults – Armani (Jeffrey Welles) 4/8, Marlou (Kimberley Prince) Elim/0, Miss Independent (Laura Kraut) 8/8, Authentic (Beezie Madden) 0/4.
Samsung Super League Leaderboard
1. Germany – 38
2. Great Britain – 33.5
3. USA – 33
4. Switzerland – 24.5
5. France – 21.5
6. Belgium – 17
7. Ireland – 14.5
8. The Netherlands – 12.5