London 2012 Olympic team gold medallist, Nick Skelton, claimed the Rome Grand Prix title for Great Britain for just the sixth time in the 81-year history of the prestigious Italian event this afternoon. Riding his Olympic horse, Big Star, he set a super-fast target in the thrilling 16-horse jump-off and, although his time was bettered, the rest could not match the clean jumping of his 10-year-old stallion.
This was the second Rome Grand Prix victory for the 55-year-old Englishman who, riding Arko lll, first topped the line-up at the Piazza di Siena back in 2006. Italy’s Emanuele Gaudiano finished a very close second with the 10-year-old mare Cocoshynsky while Robert Smith, son of 1953 winner Harvey Smith, ensured a strong British representation during the prize-giving ceremony when slotting into third with his 11-year-old mare Voila.
Skelton has enjoyed many great successes during his long and distinguished career, but his second win in the Grand Prix of Rome was still very important to him. He saves his stallion, Big Star, for only the most special events. “He’s still only a 10-year-old and he has a lot more to do so I’m not going to jump everywhere - I choose carefully where he goes” the rider explained afterwards. Talking about the course he said, “I think Uliano (Vezzani) got a few more clear rounds than he intended, but the course was good and the last line in the first round, particularly that double of verticals, was very difficult. He produced a good class and it was very exciting for the public in the jump-off” he explained. He knew he had put in a really good effort in the jump-off but admitted that he wasn’t completely confident he had done enough to win.
Gaudiano of course was delighted with his result. “I’m very proud to finish second here, I’ve had this horse since he was six and I made him myself at home” he said. On Friday he had a bit of a shock when he was eliminated in the first round of the Nations Cup. “My horse doesn’t usually do that, we were better prepared in the second round and she had two fences down but she was much better, she didn’t do it again” he pointed out. Talking about the jump-off he said - “Nick is the fastest rider in the world but I am in Rome and in front of the Italian crowd so I gave it my best. On the second line I made seven strides to the combination while Nick made six so I was a bit slower, but I finished second and I’m very happy!” he added.
FISE President, Antonella Dallari, said, “the English should be feeling very much at home here in the Globe Theatre in Rome! I’m very pleased with Gaudiano’s performance, it it 10 years since an Italian rider - Gianni Govoni - finished second in the Rome Grand Prix. It is my first time here at the show as FISE President and I’d like to thank Gaudiano for doing so well. I’ve known him since he was a child and I know that his win here was also a big team effort along with his family”. But as Piazza di Siena prepared to say goodbye to world-class showjumping for another year, the most satisfied man of all this evening was the Grand Prix champion, Nick Skelton from Great Britain.
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Source: press release from piazzadisiena.com
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