Las Vegas beckons for three Britons

  • Nick Skelton, Michael Whitaker (pictured) and Richard Davenport have all qualified to compete in the FEI World Cup Final in Las Vegas (20 -24 April). Michael Whitaker picked up 20 points with a win aboard Portofino 63 in Florida at the weekend ensured his place in the final.

    “Although I was pretty sure I had enough points to qualify for Las Vegas, [the win] secured my place and it’s been a good confidence boost prior to the final,” explained Whitaker. “[The World Cup is] a title every show jumper wants to win and to have three riders likely to compete in the final is great.”

    Robert Smith, who was on flying form to win the last of the Western European qualifying rounds in Gothenburg last week, is just two places outside qualification and therefore still stands a realistic chance of making it to the final.

    The top 18 riders in the Western European League are eligible to compete at the final, but should any of these riders drop out, then lower placed riders will take their place. Denmark’s Tina Lund, who lay at the top of the substitute list, has already benefited from the withdrawal of Toni Hassmann, who is joined on the sidelines by borderline qualifier Christophe Barbeau of Switzerland.

    In addition to the 18 qualified riders, last year’s winner, Bruno Broucqsault of France, has received an automatic invitation to the final. Brazil’s Rodrigo Pessoa, who is based in Belgium and chose to attend the European qualifying rounds, is also through, having finished eighth in the standings. However, because Pessoa is not a European national he is not counted within the 18 qualifiers allowing the 19th placed rider, in this case Richard Davenport, to go through.

    Wim Schroder is also a doubtful contender, having broken his leg a few weeks ago. Doctors are due to give their decision as to his fitness to ride next Monday. Should Schroder be unable to compete, then Robert Smith will require only one more withdrawals in make the final line up.

    Nick Skelton remains unchallenged at the head of the Western European League standings on 83 points, a staggering seven points ahead of second-placed qualifier Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum of Germany.

    Skelton’s chances of claiming a second World Cup title in Las Vegas should not be under estimated. Arko III is at the top of his game and is more than capable of following in the footsteps of Skelton’s 1995 winner, the great Dollar Girl. John Whitaker is the only other British rider to have won the competition since its inception in 1979, with victory in 1990 and again in 1991 with the infamous Milton.

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