The showjumping teams from Great Britain and Ireland are among the eight finalists for Sunday’s Longines FEI Nations Cup Final after qualifying from a nail-biting opening round in Barcelona, Spain, on Thursday (29 September).
Fourteen nations lined up for the first leg of this week’s finale and the outright winners were France, who proved unstoppable with four clear rounds. They fielded the same team of horses and riders who finished sixth at the World Championships last month.
“We were just saying how much the horses have grown since Herning,” said Simon Delestre, who rode the 10-year-old Hickstead son, Cayman Jolly Jumper. “They are super quality horses with a good mind, they are fighters and really modern horses and they proved that again today. My horse has had an amazing Nations Cup season this year.”
Tremendous start for Ireland in Nations Cup Final
Ireland showed tremendous early form in the Nations Cup Final to take second ahead of hosts Spain, equal with Belgium in third.
Irish clears came from Trevor Breen with Highland President and Jack Ryan riding BBS McGregor, both home-breds. Andrew Bourns jumped round for four faults with the Irish-bred Sea Topblue, while Mark McAuley (Jasco V Bisschop) was the drop score of eight.
Jack, 21, said: “There was a little bit of pressure because today is all about qualifying for Sunday and to get the clear round. McGregor is very special, my mother bred him and he’s been a fantastic horse. He’s a great character and everything he’s been asked to do so far he’s done it with ease. He has a big heart and every time he goes in the ring he wants to do his best and you can’t ask for more than that!”
Tying for fifth on eight penalties were Switzerland, Germany and the Netherlands and squeaking through as the last of the eight teams to qualify for Sunday’s final were Great Britain, who finished with 12 faults. They posted the same team score as Brazil, however the Brits earned the coveted top eight place thanks to a marginally quicker time – just 0.4sec split the two squads.
Clear round for Joe Stockdale
The sole British clear came from Joe Stockdale riding his World Championship team bronze medal-winning partner Equine America Cacharel, whom he described as jumping “fantastic” in the opening round.
“We went in there and felt very comfortable, and I sort of knew even from jumping the first three fences that she was on good form,” said Joe, who had given the mare a break after Herning, slowly building her back up to finish fourth in a grand prix in Belgium before coming to Spain.
“For some horses switching them off for a few weeks and switching them back on is tricky but she took to it well. You can tell when she’s ready because she gets a bit bored in the field!”
Pathfinder on Di Lampard’s young Great Britain team was Ellen Whitaker, who just picked up four faults at the treble combination on Equine America Spacecake while Jodie Hall McAteer and Salt’N Peppa came home on eight. Lily Attwood, at 20 the youngest rider in the competition, and Cor-Leon V Vlierbeek Z hit three fences and collected two time-faults.
These top eight teams go straight through to Sunday’s final where they will start again on a zero score. As well as the Nations Cup title honours, Paris 2024 Olympic qualification is at stake for either Belgium or Switzerland.
The lower placed teams now bid for victory in Saturday night’s Longines Challenge Cup.
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Credit: Peter Nixon
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