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Long-awaited win for British at Hickstead

Friday, 28 July 2023
CSIO5* Longines Royal International Horse Show 2023

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Di Lampard’s British team of Harry Charles, John Whitaker, Ben Maher and Tim Gredley won the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup of Great Britain. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.


Edited press release from the FEI written by Louise Parkes



It’s been 13 years since the home side triumphed at Hickstead, but today at last the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Great Britain was won by Di Lampard’s British team of Ben Maher and Exit Remo (San Remo x Ferro), Tim Gredley and Medoc de Toxandria (Der Senaat 111 x Kelvin de Sainte Hermelle), John Whitaker and Equine America Unick du Francport (Zandor x Helios de la Couer II) as well as Harry Charles and Casquo Blue (Chacco-Blue x Carthago Z), and it was a victory to be savoured.

It was the living legend himself, John Whitaker who will celebrate his 68th birthday in a weeks time, who clinched it with a foot-perfect performance when third to go for his country in the second round. Arguably the most popular athlete on the world circuit, the six-time Olympian summed it all up when he said, “today, after all these years competing, was probably the best day!” 

Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ. John Whitaker made his 180th appearance on the British Nations Cup team. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

There’s nothing quite like success in front of home supporters. And for the rest of the winning side, posting this win alongside Whitaker meant as much as the win itself because he is held in such high esteem. “It’s a surreal experience to be here and to jump in the team with John, because I started jumping because of him when I was 13 or 14 and saw him compete here at Hickstead”, said Gredley this evening.

Chef d’Equipe Di Lampard was filled with emotion in the aftermath. "I have to confess I shed a tear, it hit me because I wanted it so badly!", she said.


Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ “This is my first win in a home Nations Cup and it’s been a long time coming!”, Ben Maher said. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

At the halfway point it was a three-way tie on four faults between the hosts, Ireland and France.

But the competition took a dramatic turn when the Irish challenge was seriously hampered by elimination for Mark McAuley (IRL) and GRS Lady Amaro (Amaretto d'Arco x Over the River) for a blood rule violation after completing his second clear round of the day. 

That left Ireland having to count the eight faults picked up by pathfinder Shane Breen and Cuick Star Kervec (Quick Star x Diamant de Semilly), and there was no going back despite a superb double-clear from 24-year-old Jack Ryan and the home-bred BBS McGregor (Cardento 933 x Mark Twain XX), which was followed by a foot-perfect run by Daniel Coyle and Legacy (Chippendale Z x Bon Ami). Finishing on 12 faults however the Irish still lined up in second place.

The French also posted one of the three double-clears on the day from the anchor partnership of Olivier Robert and Iglesias DV (Quasimodo van de Molendreef x Labor's VDL Indorado). But Kelvin Bywater’s 12-fence track continued to take it’s toll in the second round, pathfinder Gregory Cottard and Cocaine du Val (Mylord Carthago x Si Tu Vien) lowering the vertical at fence seven and the iconic Hickstead planks at fence 10. Julien Anquetin and Z Ice Cube Z (Zacharov x Casco 4) faulted at the open water before a mistake at the first element of the triple combination at fence eight left him with a total of 19 with a lot of time added, and Olivier Perreau aboard GL Events Dorai D’Aiguilly (Kannan x Toulon) clipped the oxer after the triple combination. 

Their final tally of 16 left France in third and well clear of Sweden in fourth on 24 faults, USA in fifth with 31, the much-fancied German side in sixth with 36 faults, Brazil in seventh with 38 and Italy eighth and last with a big score of 54 faults.


Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ Double clear for the British team: Harry Charles and Casquo Blue. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

Harry Charles produced the third double-clear run of the day with Casquo Blue, and the fact that his side had already won before he returned to the world-famous Hickstead ring for a second time was testament to the strength of the British effort. 

Making it all-the-more historic was the fact that, riding Murkas Pom d’Ami, his father, Peter Charles, was on the last winning British side at Hickstead back in 2010 along with William Funnell and Billy Congo, Tina Fletcher and Hallo Sailor and John Whitaker’s younger brother Michael aboard GIG Amai. 

Maher, clear first time out today with Exit Remo, was the only one of his side to fault in round two when lowering the tricky 1.58m water-tray vertical at fence three that proved one of the main bogeys on the track. The man who clinched individual Olympic gold in Tokyo two years ago was thrilled to be part of this winning side. 

“This is my first win in a home Nations Cup and it’s been a long time coming!”, said the 40-year-old who has been competing at Hickstead since he was a child. He was very happy with the 14-year-old Exit Remo who joined his string last October. “His job was to jump when other horses needed a break, and at the beginning of the year he didn’t get many outings because other younger horses were coming along. We went to Riesenbeck (GER) last week to get some ring time to build towards the Nations Cup today, and on the drive home tonight he won’t be feeling like the weaker link!”, he added.

Maher himself has made a remarkable recovery from a nasty injury sustained in February when he was based in Florida (USA), dislocating his shoulder and breaking it in two places. “I was very lucky with the surgeons and the team of medical staff who put it together again and got me back to the sport so fast. Initially I was told it would take six months, but I took the hard road with rehab - it was one of hardest things I’ve ever done in my life. It was a freak accident and I’m feeling very lucky to be having the year I’ve been having since I came back!”, he said this evening.


Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson/WoSJ “It’s a surreal experience to be here and to jump in the team with John, because I started jumping because of him when I was 13 or 14 and saw him compete here at Hickstead”, Tim Gredley said. Photo © Jenny Abrahamsson for World of Showjumping.

The British were always feeling upbeat about their chances today. "There were good vibes about this team during the whole week - we felt quite confident and it worked out," Whitaker pointed out. 

And Harry Charles said: "When a plan comes together like it did today it’s a real achievement, I’m really proud of my team. This is probably overdue and I’m glad to bring the trophy back home. It’s a real privilege to be trusted to have the anchor role, although in the second round today the boys did all the work so I just had to go in and smile!”

Today’s result sees Britain move up from sixth to third in the Europe Division 1 rankings ahead of the final leg of the series in Dublin (IRL) where they will line out again in two weeks time. 

Going into that last leg, Germany head the league table ahead of Switzerland in second while Ireland lie fourth, The Netherlands and Belgium share fifth place, Italy lies seventh and France lies eighth and last. Only the top seven of the eight competing nations will qualify from this series for the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final 2023, and while France will join Belgium, Britain, the Irish hosts, The Netherlands and Switzerland at the Dublin fixture, the Italians have used up all of their four qualifying opportunities and look set to be overtaken for a qualifying spot.


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