Drawn sixth to go, Great Britain had a good day in the office, with three clear jumping rounds recorded on the first day of competition in the Turkish Airlines Prize speed class, at the Jumping FEI European Championships in Aachen, Germany (19 August 2015). Joe Clee with Ludwig Criel’s Utamaro d’Ecaussines finished the highest placed British rider, after finishing the day in third place.
Getting Great Britain off to a great start earlier this afternoon was Michael Whitaker aboard the talented grey Cassionato, owned by Mrs Beverley Widdowson, producing a good solid clear round to stop the clock at 76.56 seconds.
Commenting on the spirit in camp Michael said; “It’s very good, really good team spirit. I think knowing what’s at stake has given us an extra push, we’re all very geared up for it.”
Ben Maher was next into the arena for the team. Aboard Tatiana Korsakova’s Diva II the duo produced a lovely round in the imposing stadium to record a second clear for the British team in a quick time of 70.78 seconds, for seventh place.
After his round, Ben commented; “Diva jumped incredibly, I took certain risks in some places and played a little safe to one jump [fence 10] which probably cost me the lead right now but we’re here for one thing only and that’s what important today. She jumped incredibly; I have a lot of confidence in her, today we jumped as fast as we could possibly go”.
Third to go was Jessica Mendoza, who makes her senior Championship debut for the team this year. Riding Sarah Mendoza’s bay mare Spirit T - with whom she has competed at top level Nations Cup contests this year - the combination were unfortunate to have two poles down in an otherwise superb round.
“I was trying to go quite quick, it didn’t quite pay-off as I had two down,” Jess commented, “I’m really excited to be here at my first senior Championship, it’s just amazing. It was a nice course to start, nearer the end it got a bit trickier; I don’t quite know why she had that one down [the first fence], and then, like I said she went too quick and I couldn’t get her back enough.”
Last in for the team was Joe Clee and Uta, producing another stunning clear – the third for the British team, the pair stopped the clock at 69.67 seconds to secure third place. Penelope Leprevost of France took the top spot with Germany’s Ludger Beerbaum third.
Joe commented after his round; “I was aware I had to go fast they told me that before I went in obviously, but he’s a great horse to go fast on, the faster you go the more he tries. I was a bit worried about going in with him the first time and going fast because with him the faster you go the higher he jumps. He handled it really well I felt really confident on him; the further the round went on the more risks I felt I could take, so it was really nice.
“They [Ben and Michael] were brilliant to start with which takes the pressure off you a little bit, but it’s still on. Jess was a little bit unlucky there, I thought she rode really good, just looked a little bit green in that arena maybe. Those two rounds put me a little bit more relaxed and motivated me as well seeing those guys going so fast.”
The team currently lie in third place after the first qualifying round. Tomorrow sees all four athletes contest the Team competition Round 1, with the Final, Round 2 of the team competition, decided on Friday.
Equestrian Team GBR is supported by the UK Sport National Lottery funded World Class Programme; the British teams are very grateful to the support they receive from official Team GBR suppliers Dodson & Horrell, Equi-Trek, Land Rover, NAF, NuuMed, Point Two Equine, Tagg Equestrian and Toggi.
For full results from today’s class and information about the event, please visit: http://results.aachen2015.de/show/7/schedule/