Britain finished well outside a top-five Olympic qualifying spot when slotting into ninth in the show jumping championships at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany last tonight.

Another superb performance from Michael Whitaker and Insul Tech Portofino, who collected just a single time fault once again over the difficult new 13-fence track, was not enough to improve the British team’s result. Tim Gredley and Omelli had two fences down along with a time fault, and both Nick Skelton with Russel and John Whitaker with Peppermill collected five faults each.

In the lead after Wednesday’s first Nations Cup round, it was The Netherlands who took team gold ahead of the USA in silver and Germany in bronze medal position. The team from The Ukraine, who have been the talking point of much of the championships so far, were edged out by just 0.01 points into fourth place. Switzerland finished fifth while the Irish had the frustration of missing out on those tickets to Beijing when sixth. One of the biggest surprises of the tournament has been the proficiency of the Spanish whose eighth-place finishing spot, behind Belgium and ahead of Britain, was earned with some superb jumping.


The Netherlands show jumping team celebrate their gold medal
Photo by Trevor Meeks

Michael Whitaker is the only Briton to remain in for Saturday’s Top-25 two-round competition. Lying 14th after the first three rounds of jumping, his score of 7.53 leaves him just over one fence behind the leader, America’s Beezie Madden, whose zero score with Authentic was maintained with another superb performance. Eric Lamaze, lying second
for Canada going into today’s class, disappeared off the radar when picking up 12 faults. Holland’s Gerco Schroder, riding the spectacular jumper Eurocommerce Berlin, has moved into silver medal position while Germany’s Ludger Beerbaum (L’Espoir) is in bronze. But
there is precious little between the leading bunch that includes Holland’s Jeroen Dubbeldam (BMC Up and Down) in fourth, America’s McLain Ward (Sapphire) in fifth and Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum in sixth, while the gracious Cavalor Cumano continued
to wow the packed stadium with another sensational round for Belgium’s Jos Lansink who is lying seventh.

Insul Tech Portofino looks to be growing in confidence with every round so Michael Whitaker can go into Saturday’s challenge full of determination.

Frank Rothenberger’s track caught out some of the real favourites with the new Postage Stamp Wall at fence six proving the undoing of Holland’s Piet Raymakers (Van Schijndel’s Ckurtis) and, of all people, German super-star Marcus Ehning who retired with Noltes Kuchengirl after a crash at this one.

Tim Gredley, whose only mistake occurred at the triple combination at fence eight where Omelli hit the final two elements, is ever-improving while Nick Skelton, whose ride with Russel on Wednesday was nothing short of a work of genius, was caught out only by the difficult distance between the double at four and the following oxer. John Whitaker clipped the first element of the combination after Peppermill seemed to react to either a strong pull from his rider, or to something in the crowd which brought him almost to a stop but, as
only the masterful Yorkshireman could, Whitaker steered the stallion home safely without further ado.

Meanwhile German show jumping team horse, Cento, was retired in a special ceremony that took place ahead of the team final. The 17-year-old was ridden by Otto Becker to take team gold in Sydney and team bronze in Athens and the grey Holsteiner who, during a wonderful career, collected the Grand Prix titles at Aachen and Spruce Meadows and who claimed the World Cup title for his rider in 2002 was edging to take on some of the fences instead of parading in front of his adoring fans who cheered the stallion, sire of 16 approved sires and of 151 international competition horses, as he took his emotional final gallop around the world-famous Aachen arena.

Read the show jumping reports in full in next week’s Horse & Hound (7 September)