IJRC PRESIDENT KEVIN STAUT WITH HIS TEAM, WON the Hickstead Nations Cup, after a thrilling battle against Germany and BrazIL

The French haven’t won the British leg of the Nations Cup series since 1998, but last Friday quartet of Olivier Robert (Vivaldi Des Meneaux), Edward Levy (Uno De Cerisy), Marc Dilasser (Arioto Du Gevres) and Kevin Staut (Visconti Du Telman) rose to the challenge to lift the Edward, Prince of Wales Trophy.

France and Germany led the competition from the start, finishing the first round with a team total of four faults apiece, with Ireland and Brazil just behind them on eight faults. With Germany’s pathfinder Ludger Beerbaum picking up four faults in the second round, and his team mates Tobias Meyer and Marcus Ehning posting clears, it meant Phillip Weishaupt just had to jump clear to give the Germans the win.

But the penultimate fence fell for Weishaupt and Asathir, meaning Germany had to jump-off against France and Brazil, who moved into contention after producing three clears in the second round.

Brazil went first in the jump-off, with their selected rider Francisco Jose Mesquita Musa having an unlucky fence down to open the door for France and Germany. Germany’s Tobias Meyer then produced a speedy clear on Greatest Boy H to finish on 42.89sec and put pressure on France. But Marc Dilasser, who had produced a clear in the first round and a disappointing 12 faults in the second, came in on the fast Arioto Du Gevres to jump clear and shave nearly a second of Tobias’s time to take the win.

“The whole competition was very fair, difficult, but not too difficult. Everything was so close in the first round, and then it could have gone any way in the second round. No one was really staying ahead; it went up and down the whole time, so it was an exciting afternoon and a brilliant competition,” said France’s chef d’equipe, Henk Nooren.

Olympic gold medallist and former European Champion Kevin Staut, who acted as anchorman for the winning team, added: “I’m so pleased to be part of the team and to have fought so intensely – it’s been a great afternoon, and I didn’t realise how long it had been since we’d won so I’m so proud to be part of this French team.”

With three teams finishing on 12 faults, it came down to time to deduce the remaining placings, with Belgium fourth, Ireland fifth and home nation Great Britain sixth, ahead of the 2019 victors Sweden.

The hosts had a mixed competition, with Harry Charles – who was making his Hickstead Nations Cup debut – producing a brilliant double clear on Casquo Blue, and Jodie Hall-McAteer picking up four faults both rounds on Salt’n Peppa. John Whitaker (Equine America Unick Du Francport) and Olympic Champion Ben Maher (Faltic HB) bounced back from disappointing scores in the first round to post superb clears in the second round.

“Congratulations to the French team for breaking down the Brexit barriers and coming here and winning,” said Edward Bunn, Hickstead Executive Director. “I thought it was a fantastic competition; the course builder did a great job with fences coming down all over the place, but not too many fences. The difference between first and sixth place was just one fence, so Kelvin should be congratulated.”

Thursday saw cousins Robert and William Whitaker win both international showjumping classes, and today it was the turn of James and John Whitaker to secure victories in the Longines International Arena. 

The Whitaker showjumping dynasty continued their run of form with James winning this morning’s Royal International 7&8 Year Old qualifier with the seven-year-old Just Call Me Henry, before uncle John took the honours in the Royal International Stakes with Sharid.

The gelding is owned by Prince Torki Bin Muhammed Al Saud. “Sharid has been jumping really well,” said John, who was nearly 1.5sec faster than second-placed Tobias Meyer of Germany. “He is 13, but he’s still improving – in the beginning, he was difficult to control, but because I always knew he could jump, it was worth just working on it and the control has really improved. It’s just about getting to know them and improving them, and that doesn’t happen overnight. You have to keep working away; if you can improve them a half a percent or a tenth of a percent every time you ride, that does add up.”

John had an early draw in the class – and had to survive a sticky moment early in his round. “I was second to go, and it’s difficult to win a speed class like that. I decided I was going to do one stride less from fence one to fence two, but that didn’t work out – I lost my rein, and everything went wrong! But from then on, it was perfect. You just have to stay calm.”

The De La Hey Family Supreme Riding Horse Championship went to producer Danielle Heath, riding Times Square III, while the Saracen Horse Feeds Supreme Working Hunter went to Eleanor Hirst and Noble Gladiator.

Click here for full results. 

Images by Jon Stroud