William Whitaker scored a great victory in Barcelona on day three, winning the Queens Cup with Fandango.
It was no mean feat, 57 of the world’s best riders tackled the first round and 21 of them posted initial clears to access the jump-off, and it promised to be sizzling hot. William had two big advantages – a late draw and his world-class rider uncle Michael on hand for advice.
The advice was sound. William gambled on a shortcut and jumped the decorative flowers situated between a carriage display and the wing of a fence and saved valuable time to take the class on the 14-year-old Fandango by 0.62 sec.
“Michael spotted I could jump the flowers when we looked at the course earlier but I wasn’t sure. When I heard Tiffany Foster had jumped them, I knew I had to do it if I wanted to beat her,” said William, drawn 17th of the 21 in the jump-off.
Despite the late challenge from Pieter Devos, the Belgian rider took second with Claire Z and Canada’s Tiffany was relegated into third on Brighton.
“Fandango’s experienced and talented and I’ve been lucky enough to ride him for many years, I know him inside out and trust him totally and that helps in a big jump-off like this one,” said Will.
Fellow Brits Michael, Ben Maher, Scott Brash and Guy Williams all watched the jump-off and reported back to Will on progress and tactics.
“That really helped, I could focus on warming up and they let me know what I had to to when I got in there, and Fandango went in and got the job done.”
Four faults in the jump-off dropped Ireland’s Shane Breen and Hallowbwerry Cruz down to 12th. Four faults in round one for Guy Williams (Casper De Muze) and Ben Maher (Winning Good) put them out of contention.
Despite a fused light causing an almost two hour delay to the start of the FEI Nations Cup final, it didn’t spoil the party for The Netherlands and they claimed a handsome victory on just one time fault.
"In Spain everything is always later. They start later in the morning, and they finish later in the evening - we wanted to win anyway!" said Harrie Smolders.
It went to the wire, the anchor riders deciding the final result, and it was a cliffhanger until Harrie and the consistent Diamant De Semilly stallion Don VHP Z sealed a Dutch victory with a magnificent clear.
Jur Vireling got The Netherlands off to a great start on VDL Glasgow V Merelsnest and second rider Michel Hendix was just over the time allowed on Baileys to incur one time fault. Marc Houtzager hit the first element of an early double with Sterrehofs Calimero to become the drop score when Harrie pulled a clear out of the bag.
“I felt Don started to get a little tired and I had to carry him a bit today, but he gave everything and will get the rest he deserves now,” said Harrie. “It was a big challenge today but I’m super-confident this season because he jumps clear after clear.”
The USA team – including British-based Laura Kraut on Confu – with McLain Ward on HH Azur, Beezie Madden with Darry Lou and Lauren Hough’s Ohlala – finished on four faults and took second place. Belgium, also on four faults, lined up third when the combined times were taken into account, and proved 1.15 sec in arrears.