It was a good opening day for Team GBR as the jumping got underway at the European Championships in Rotterdam this afternoon. Ben Maher delivered an outstanding performance to finish in 3rd place individually within what was an incredibly strong field of world class combinations. Great Britain stand in 4th place overall and in second place contention for one of the three Tokyo Games tickets that are at stake.
The 1.50m Table C course designed by home nation course designer Louis Konickx swept around the all-weather arena leaving many choices as to how the competitors could ride it. With time being the critical factor in deciding the final placings there were options for riders to push forward and cut out strides in a number of places on the course.
As one of the nation’s still to qualify for Tokyo, the European Championships is a pivotal one for the Brits and it was important to get a strong start on day one. The team of four looked to be in good shape with all riders feeling confident going forward.
Pathfinder for the team was Amanda Derbyshire with Luibanta BH, an 11 year-old bay mare owned by Gochman Sport Horse LLC. They looked in great form as they opened up for the three riders to follow and it was an extremely unlucky 4 seconds added to their very fast time of 74.48 seconds, which would have put them in the lead at that point in the competition, following a touch of the top pole in the final double on the home straight. Talking afterwards she said “I’m pretty excited and we have had a good start. I wish I hadn’t have had that fence down, we were unlucky as she tried really hard and was pretty quick everywhere else.” Talking about the course she added “Any course suits her. She’s pretty simple. You always walk in knowing that nothing is going to faze her which is an extremely good feeling when you are riding into big fences like that. You know that nothing is going to spook her so you can just focus on being as accurate as you can.”
Next to go was Holly Smith with Hearts Destiny, a 10 year-old British bred bay gelding owned by TJ Hall Ltd and Holly. The big striding talented gelding ate up the ground leaving all poles untouched, however a foot in the water saw them have the misfortune of picking up a 4 second penalty to their time of 75.61 seconds. Catching up with her after her round she said “It could have been better but I’m not that disappointed as he [Hearts Destiny] went really well. There were several options out there where you could put in or take a stride out if you wanted to and that’s the sort of course that suits him. He is a big striding horse so I can open him up a bit if I want to. I tried to do it in the least possible strides so we were trying to go quickly but without pushing him. On the whole he’s a big grass arena horse, but he’s extremely adaptable and he showed that today. He’s a lot more experienced than he was last year and he listens and completes every manoeuvre I ask of him. I’m really pleased with him.”
For Scott Brash and Hello M’Lady, a 13 year-old bay mare owned by Lady Pauline Kirkham and Lady Pauline Harris, it was an unlucky 8 second penalty added to their forward paced time of 74.28. Starting off incredibly strong they looked set to post a very fast clear before a foot in the water and the rolling of a pole at the same fence that caught Amanda saw them then allocated a final score of 82.28 seconds. On their round Scott said “I was very happy with how M’Lady jumped and I thought we were unlucky at the water jump and to have one small mistake at the end. Other than that she jumped a solid round so I feel our results are only going to improve tomorrow and the rest of the week which will be the main days for qualifying for Tokyo and with a bit of luck a team medal.”
For Ben Maher and Explosion W, a 10 year-old chestnut gelding owned by Poden Farm, it was a long wait before they entered the arena as they were not only the final rider for the team but also the penultimate rider of the competition. This ultra-talented combination produced an exceptional round with Ben utilising Explosion’s accuracy and power to produce an incredible clear in a fast time of 71.49 seconds. This was to be a time that would give Ben 3rd place at the end of the first day and in a good position going forward with the Individuals as well as delivering great input to the overall team score to put the Brits into contention going forward. Talking after the award giving ceremony Ben said “Explosion was great. He is naturally a fast horse and I didn’t take too many risks. We are in a good position individually and I hope we can build on the team score tomorrow. I didn’t think the course was big today but it didn’t jump easy. It’s always hard when you are trying to jump quick and leave the jumps up at the same time. It was a good course for the first day, there was a lot of options for you to take. The conditions are excellent and it rides really well in there.”
Following the completion of today’s competition, the overall scores achieved by each rider have been converted into penalties and Great Britain lie in 4th place overnight on a team total of 9.41. Germany currently top the table on 4.22 with France in second on 5.39 and Sweden in third on 6.81.
Tomorrow will see round one of the Team Final start at 9.00am (BST) and it will be available to watch live via the BBC Red Button.
For the full results from today, visit https://bit.ly/2zeDGuE.
The British senior teams are supported by the BEF’s UK Sport National Lottery funded World Class Programme.