Britain win the Nations Cup in Gijon

Robert Bevis was hero of the day at Gijon, sealing a British victory in a nail-biting, final qualifying leg of the Furisiyya FEI Nations Cup with a last-to-go, vital clear on Courtney Z. Britain pipped Spain by the slenderest of margins – just one fault separated the two. This wasn't a point-scoring leg for Britain.

Spanish course-designer Avelino Rodriguez-Miravalles’ first round track proved remarkably difficult, the final double accounting for almost half the field.

Only four of 47 riders returned clears, including our own Tim Stockdale (Fleur De L’Aube) and Sam Hutton (Happydam) on his first 5* team. It enabled the team to drop Joe Whitaker’s eight faults on Lola and just carry Rob’s single mistake at a 1.60m vertical following the open water on Courtney, and Britain led at the halfway stage with two fences in hand.

But the Spanish fought back hard to add nothing to their round one 17-fault score and piled the pressure on Britain. Tim returned four second time out, Joe came home on 12 – hitting both elements of the ‘bogey’ double – and Sam posted eight at the last element of the combination and first part of the double.

The lead was slipping away. Discounting Joe’s 12, Britain was now only one fault ahead of Spain, only a clear would do.

It all came down to Rob and the 15-year-old Courtney. But they were more than capable and had produced a magical double clear in Dublin. You could hear a pin drop as the pair tackled each fence, and Rob delivered in style.

Chef d’equipe Tony Newbery had been confident from the off. “From the moment we saw the course plan we got excited because we knew we had a chance of winning,” he said.

Sam Hutton, 27, thought the troublesome final double was the biggest test on the track, and Joe explained that while Lola coped well first time out, it wasn’t so easy for her in round two.

“The good news is the rest of the team pulled together so we could win,” he added.

Rob pointed out the team had gone into the competition in a good frame of mind.

“We’d had good good results over the last few days, and you have to be confident or there’s no point in even going into the ring,” said Rob.

And on his final round clincher – “Tim just said, ‘You gotta jump clear, don’t worry, just go in and do it!’ So I didn’t think about it, I just got on with it!”

And he was delighted with Courtney – “I was chuffed with him today, he’s a really great horse and a good friend to me.”

Spain was second on 17 faults with The Netherlands third on 20. Ireland – including British-based Billy Twomey on Diaghilev and Anthony Condon with the Hales’ Aristio – made the cut on 17 in round one, but round two didn’t go their way and they added a further 20 faults to finish in eighth place.

Billy finished second in the speed final with Ardcolum Duke, 0.69 sec behind winner, France’s Julien Epaillard on Sheriff De La Nutria LM. Anthony eased Balzac into fifth. Joe on Lavarno, Robert Smith with Cimano E and Tim’s Tornado Des Monts had four faults apiece.

Nations Cup result:

1. Great Britain 16 faults: Fleur de l’Aube (Tim Stockdale) 0/4, Lola V (Joe Whitaker) 8/12, Happydam (Samuel Hutton) 0/8, Courtney Z (Robert Bevis) 4/0.

2. Spain 17 faults: Fidux (Eduardo Alvarez Aznar) 5/0, Macao (Armando Trapote) 4/12, Cassino DC (Gerardo Menendez) 12/0, Arrayan (Sergio Alvarez Moya) 8/0.

3. Netherlands 20 faults: Zinius (Doron Kuipers) 4/0, Arlando (Roelof Bril) 4/4, Abache HL (Charlotte Verhagen) 13/16, Captain Cooper (Sanne Thijssen) 8/0.

4. Switzerland 22 faults: Capuera ll (Nadja Peter-Steiner) 8/0, Cordel (Claudia Gisler) 4/4, Edison (Vladja Reverdin) 5/4, LB Eagle Eye (Christina Liebherr) 5/8.

5. Canada 24 faults: Zilversprings (Elizabeth Gingras) 0/0, Grand Cru vd Vijf Eiken (Vanessa Mannix) 4/8, Gin Tonic vg Haagakkers (Kara Chad) 16/8, Check Picobello Z (Eric Lamaze) 8/4.

6. Italy 25 faults: Connery (Luca Maria Moneta) 9/4, Ottava Meraviglia di Ca’ San G (Paolo Paini) 4/4, Redskin de Riverland (Antonio Alfonso) Elim/4, Gitano van Berkenbroeck (Juan Carlos Garcia) 4/0.

7. France 29 faults: Qadillac de Heup (Bernard Briand Chevalier) 12/4, Quolita Z (Harold Boisset) 8/4, Equador van’t Roosakker (Frederic David) 8/5, Quatrin de la Roque LM (Julien Epaillard) 0/Ret.

8. Ireland 37 faults: Callisto (Cian O’Connor) 9/0, Aristio (Anthony Condon) 4/16, Hetman of Colors (Conor Swail) 4/12, Diaghilev (Billy Twomey) 12/8.

Photo © FEI