Britain’s show jumpers have done well to squeeze into the second round of the fiercely contested team competition at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, USA, after such high-profile nations as Ireland, Switzerland and the defending champions, the Netherlands, failed to make the cut.
Robert Smith, a last-minute addition to the quartet after Tina Fletcher’s horse Hello Sailor suffered a minor injury just before the horses were due to be flown out, brilliantly saved the day with two timely clear rounds on Talan, elevating the team to 10th, which is the cut-off point for the second round.
Son of the legendary Harvey, Robert Smith, who only narrowly missed a medal in the 2004 Olympics, is known to be a hard man to beat in a tight situation. He is now lying eighth individually in the field of 120 behind the shock individual leader, Saudi Arabian rider Khalid Al Eid.
‘I’m pleased, though obviously I’d rather not have had the time fault,’ Robert said. ‘Talon was careful and cautious to start, but got strong towards the end-one minute I was kicking, the next I was pulling! It was crucial to get a good start for the team and me as an individual. It was a clever riders’ course: asking you to nip into some distances and opening you up on others.’
Fellow team mate David McPherson is currently 39th, team rookie Scott Brash is 54th and the ultra-experienced Michael Whitaker is 63rd. However, scores are thrillingly tight – Britain is only five penalties away from the leaders, Germany. The second round starts at midnight, British time, tonight and can be watched live on www.feitv.com.
The para-dressage riders have also made a promising start and look set to add considerably to Britain’s gold medal haul so far. The legendary Lee Pearson heads the grade 1b competition and 60-year-old MS sufferer Anne Dunham, who is chasing a 14th medal, leads the 1a section (for the most disabled).
Britain is unbeaten in para-dressage, but Mrs Dunham, the only rider to have competed at every Paralympics, says she never rests on her laurels. ‘You can’t be complacent,’ she said. ‘I always come to a Championship with a fresh mind and I’m well aware that you always have to sharpen up your game.’
Full results on www.alltechfeigames.org