Great Britain’s showjumpers had a day to forget at the recent Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup round in Rotterdam (24 June).
It was one of Britain’s point scoring legs, so Di Lampard had selected a strong team for the event in the hope of picking up valuable qualifying points ahead of this year’s Nations Cup final.
But by the conclusion of the first round, Britain was already floundering with a team total of 12 faults. Ben Maher (Tic Tac) produced the only clear round of the quartet, with Jessica Mendoza (Spirit T) finishing on four faults, Robert Whitaker (Catwalk IV) on eight, while Joe Clee and Utamaro D’Ecaussines delivering the drop score of 16 faults.
In round two, things deteriorated further, with Ben finishing on four faults, Jessica picking up nine faults and Robert having another eight fault round, and the Brits finishing at the bottom of the leaderboard. Joe once again was the discount score with 17 faults.
All four of these riders are on the Olympic showjumping team long list, so while Ben Maher is looking ever more certain of getting his ticket to Rio, the selectors will no doubt be left scratching their heads in regards to which riders to send with him.
Scott Brash has already been ruled out of Rio after both his top Olympic contenders picked up minor injuries earlier this season – meaning Britain has lost its Olympic trump card.
Nick Skelton and Big Star are the other obvious choices, with the pair jumping a phenomenal double clear earlier this year in La Baule. Big Star has been on and off competition since winning team gold in 2012 because of niggling injuries, but the stallion has been especially targeted for Rio and – providing he’s at full fitness come August – could easily factor in the medals.
The question is whether Jessica Mendoza, 20, has done enough in Rotterdam to secure her first Olympic team spot. She was part of the European team last summer that secured crucial Rio qualification.
Michael Whitaker is among the favourites for selection, having been longlisted with both Viking and Cassionato. Michael’s brother John is another strong possibility, while John’s son Robert is also longlisted, along with Tim Stockdale, Guy Williams and Joe Clee.
Back to Rotterdam – and it was the home nation who flourished in the Nations Cup, winning with a team total of zero points. The reigning World and European champions look set to add the Olympic title to their collection.
Chef d’Equipe Rob Ehrens is in the enviable position of having too many in-form riders to choose from when he names his Olympic team. “The decision is on my small shoulders, and we hope to have the best riders go to Rio. The job is not easy but it is definitely looking bright,” he said.
Switzerland took second with a total of four faults, while Germany finished third with eight faults.
Meanwhile, in the dressage Nations Cup, the Netherlands team was once again successful on home turf. Danielle Heijkoop (Siro), Adelinde Cornelissen (Jerich Parzival), Diederik Van Silfhout (Arlando NOP) and Hans Peter Minderhoud (Glock’s Johnson TN NOP) finished on a team total of 460.167, nearly five points clear of nearest rivals, the USA.
Great Britain’s team of Lara Griffith (Rubin Al Asad), Michael Eilberg (Woodlander Dornroschen), Laura Tomlinson (Rosalie B) and Gareth Hughes (Classic Briolinca) scored 423.600 to finish bottom of the five teams.
All four have been longlisted for Rio, though Gareth Hughes has already withdrawn his horse from contention due to injury.
The teams will be announced on 5 July.