Robert Whitaker's double clear helps Britain to third in the FEI Nations Cup of Linz

Great Britain finished a respectable third in the FEI 4* Nations Cup of Linz in Austria to gain valuable points early in the season.Thirteen teams came forward to tackle the 12-fence, 15 jumping effort track with a restrictive time designed jointly by Germany’s Frank Rothenberger and Austria’s Franz Madi and only three double clears were evident – one of them Britain’s Robert Whitaker on Catwalk.

Joe Clayton got the ball rolling for the British team on the Conterno Grande 10-year-old Con Man JX and was clear all the way until the last, picking up for faults at the final double and a time fault to return five. But Robert strengthened Britain’s position with the Colman 14-year-old Catwalk with a magnificent clear.

Third off Alison Barton, making her senior Nations Cup debut on Gaye Hartley’s 10-year-old Roma IV, rode a confident round, just tipping the middle element of the combination in an otherwise foot-perfect round to finish on four. Anchor rider Robert Smith didn’t have the best of rounds as the 12-year-old Bavi posted an uncharacteristic 13 penalties to be the drop score.

At the halfway stage, Britain stood in equal third on nine faults with the Czech Republic and Hungary. Italy led the way on an impressive two faults with Belgium in second on four. And the results remained unchanged as the top eight teams contended round two – Italy adding just one time fault to remain in the top spot and Belgium posting a zero score in round two for second.

But the fight for third was hard-fought and every round counted, but the British held their own. Joe returned to finish inside the time, although Con Man was unlucky to lower a rail in the latter half of the course, and Robert and Catwalk rose to the occasion to finish with another great clear round to boost Britain’s chances. Alison and Roma looked set to also finish on a penalty-free score, but the final fence fell and the luckily broke the beam on exactly the time allowed.

It was all down to Robert Smith, and he pulled it out of the bag, coaxing Bavi to clear every pole, picking up just one time fault in an otherwise brilliant round.

Nonetheless, it was sufficient for third place and Britain took their place on the podium on a 14 fault total. The Czech Republic finished just one fault behind on 15 for fourth with Hungary in fifth on 19 faults.

Chef d’Equipe Di Lampard was impressed with Britain’s performance.

“I was so pleased with the entire team and want to acknowledge Robert Whitaker’s tremendous performance – he was superb in round one and his second round was brilliant, you could watch them getting better and better. Robert Smith’s first round was disappointing but with his experience, he put it behind hinm and delivered in round two. Joe played a great part in the team as pathfinder and Alison has stepped up to this level with two great rounds in her first Nations Cup,” she said.

Joe Clayton claimed fifth in the 1.45m two-phase with Steve Barnes’ 10-year-old Millioninmind (Ard VDL Douglas/Glidawn Diamond). The pair posted a double clear but finished 3.40 sec behind the winner, Belgium’s Francois Mathy Jr on Casanova de l’Herse.

Photos © Jumping Around