Great Britain got off a strong start and currently stand in fourth place after day one at the European Championships – and a place at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is in sight, although there is a long way to go.Ben Maher delivered a great round in the anchor position on Poden Farm’s on-form 10-year-old Explosion W to take third individually and gave the British team a boost up the order.
A total of 15 nations started the competition and 10 of them are also chasing one of the three team qualifying spots on offer for the Tokyo Olympics. The next two days of competition are crucial will be as much about good placing and a Tokyo ticket as achieving a place on the medal podioum.
Course-designer Louis Konickx set a multi-option track at 1.50m over table C rules (four sec added for a knockdown), challenging with a narrow Longines wall, four metre wide open water and an influential final line. And time was a critical factor as the order of places are re-configured into points and there is less than fence between the top three – Germany leading on 4.22 by a narrow margin over France (5.39) with Sweden (6.81) in third. Britain (9.41) and Switzerland (9.83) stand fourth and fifth just over two fences behind with Ireland and Israel in hot pursuit in sixth and seventh respectively.
Britain’s pathfinder Amanda Derbyshire on the 11-year-old Luibanta BH put in a fast, competitive time but fell victim to the penultimate double with just a touch of the top pole to add four sec to their time.
“I’m pretty excited but I wish I hadn’t had that fence down, we were unlucky and she tried really hard,” she said. “Any course suits her. She’s pretty simple, nothing fazes her which is a good feeling when you’re riding into big fences like that and you can just focus on being as accurate as you can.”
Holly Smith was second out for Team GB on the big-striding Heart Throb 10-year-old Hearts Destiny and they left every fence intact but a toe in the water earned a four sec penalty.
“It could have been better but I’m not disappointed, he went well. There were several options where you could take a stride out and that suits him, he’s a big striding horse I can open up a bit so I was trying to go quick without really pushing him,” said Holly. “On the whole, he’s a big grass arena horse but he’s extremely adaptable and showed that today. He’s a lot more experienced than last year and he listens and compltes every manoeuvre I ask.”
A foot in the water and a lowered rail at the double put Scott and Hello M’Lady on an eight sec penalty and the drop score.
“We were unlucky at the water and made a small mistake near the end, other than that we jumped a solid round and I feel our results are only going to improve,” he said.
Ben provided a brilliant clear of power and accuracy.
“He’s naturally fast and I didn’t take too many risks. I didn’t think the course was big today but it didn’t jump easy although it was a good course and there were plenty of options,” he said. “We’re in a good position individually and I hope we can build on the team score tomorrow.”
Defending individual gold medallist Peder Fredricson (Sweden) and H&M All In topped the individual leaderboard ahead of Austria’s Max Kuhner in second on Chardonnay II.
Ben was second last to go out of 70 starters with Explosion (Chacco-Blue/Baloubet Du Rouet) with a round that fully justified his anchor position to take third place.
“It’s always hard to wait until the very end, I didn’t get to see Peder or Max go. Explosion is naturally a fast horse, and he was very excited to be here yesterday, he was fresher than normal. I just couldn’t take a big risk today on the line with the Longines wall, that’s where these guys were better than me today. Explosion has won a lot but he’s young and he’s being a little bit careful sometimes at these jumps”, he explained.
Text © Jumping Around/Photo courtesy British Showjumping