Nick Skelton and the Hales family’s Arko III put the lid on a fabulous four days’ jumping at Sheffield’s Hallam FM Arena when they took the £25,000 first prize in the British Open Championship.
With placings carried forward as penalties from the qualifying competition, Robert Smith and Nick Skelton stood first and second, one fence clear of their rivals. But when Nick went clear and Robert’s ride, Mr Springfield, hit the last two fences in the first round, the positions were reversed.
In a tense eight-horse second round, Robert put the pressure back on with Mr Springfield and when Arko went sky high and landed on the back bar of an early parallel, it looked as though this may have paid off.
But Nick Skelton has not been in this game for so long without learning how to keep his cool. The man from Warwickshire was determination himself and Arko responded in kind to balloon the rest of the course.
“This has been a fantastic show,” said Nick, whose next outing with Arko will be at the La Baule Nations Cup in France at the beginning of next month.
Robert Smith’s scintillating form had continued in the earlier British Speed Stakes when he and Marius Claudius galloped round the multi-optioned track to beat what looked like an unbeatable target from John Whitaker and Lactic Two by 2sec.
Scotland ruled supreme in the Home International Challenge, but the riders from north of the border left themselves with plenty to do after Saturday’s individual leg. However, things did not go to plan for the leaders from Wales and when final rider Lee Williams lowered a fence, the honours went to the a proud Scottish squad of Derek Morton, Douglas Duffin, Kelly Connor and Andrew Hamilton.
- Click here to view the results from Sheffield in full.