Hickstead - The British team ran away with the Hickstead leg of the Meydan Nations Cup on Friday. They finished on seven faults, 15 clear of Germany, France and the United States, who have dominated the first six events of the 2010 show jumping super league. Halfway through the second round Peter Charles, William Funnell, Tina Fletcher and Michael Whitaker were so far ahead that victory was secured when Fletcher was still three fences from home, leaving Whitaker with no need to jump again.
The quartet’s score was made up entirely of minor time penalties, Whitaker’s ride, GIG Amai, being the only British horse to lower a single pole.
Even more remarkably, two of the horses – Funnell’s Billy Congo and Fletcher’s ride Hello Sailor – were competing in only their second super league event and Fletcher herself was battered and bruised after falling with another horse in an earlier class.
Their performances open up manager Rob Hoekstra’s options for the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in two months' time.
He has already indicated that world medals are not a priority and he views the WEG as a stepping stone for horses of 2012 potential.
“If what has happened today makes it harder to chose the WEG team, that is a good problem to have,” he said. “In recent years it’s been a case of last man standing. Building up a pool of good young horses is where I want to be.”
Charles and Murka’s Pom d’Ami – who have jumped eight superleague clears this year – were the first to make the big track look easy.
However, it was still a big ask for the bounding Billy Congo, star turn of the Funnells’ own sport horse programme, and Hello Sailor, who has been with Fletcher since his novice career.
The gelding is now owned by Lady Harris, who has a horse back in a Nations Cup since the days of her long-standing patronage of David Broome.
Britain have won the home leg of this global team series 30 times since 1947 but have been less reliable in recent years, last winning at Hickstead in 2006. Their dismal performance here last year confirmed their relegation, which was only overturned this spring after a seventh-month legal battle.
Britain now stand second in the series ranking, with the final next week in Dublin. France, though fourth, cannot be beaten for the series prize, with a 10-point lead.
Photo Credit: (left-right) Great Britain's William Funnell, Tina Fletcher, Rob Hoekstra (chef d'Equipe) Peter Charles, Michael Whitiker celebrate victory at Hickstead Photo: PA