Britain jump clear of America

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The Independent Online
EQUESTRIANISM

Britain gained an emphatic victory in yesterday's ENZA Nations Cup, with John Whitaker jumping the only double clear round of the competition on the 13-year-old gelding Everest Welham. The home team beat the United States by a substantial margin of 20 faults, with the Netherlands and France filling the next two places.

By no stretch of the imagination could this be called a vintage Nations Cup, but the British achievement nevertheless provided hope for the future. Both Geoff Billington and William Funnell, jumping in their first Nations Cup on home ground, proved cool and determined competitors who (according to Ronnie Massarella, the team manager) are now "in the firing line" for a place on the European Championship team.

Billington had just one error in each of his two rounds on It's Otto. Funnell was clear first time on Comex, who then rolled a pole off the second fence on his next appearance. "I think that was my fault, I was a bit too casual," Funnell said.

Emma-Jane Mac was the only Briton to run into serious trouble. She had 24 faults in the first round on Diamond, and she retired next time after further problems with the headstrong mare. Since her scores had to be discounted, Whitaker (last to go for the team) could not afford to relax.

The pressure was not, however, too intense for the unflappable Yorkshireman. He could have clobbered four fences in his second round and Britain would still have won. Instead, he jumped clear a second time, proving Welham's talents to everyone - including Keeley Durham, the horse's ecstatic owner.

ENZA NATIONS CUP (Hickstead, Sussex): 1 Great Britain, 12 faults; 2 USA, 32; 3 The Netherlands, 40; 4 France, 44; 5 Germany, 48; 6 Ireland, 52. British scores: It's Otto (G Billington) 4 faults,4 faults; Comex (W Funnell) clear, 4; Diamond (E-J Mac) 24, retired; Everest Welham (J Whitaker) clear, clear. ENZA Royal Gala Fault and Out: 1 Everest Roddy's Revenge (J Whitaker, GB) 22pts, 65.01sec; 2 Blue Grass (R Splaine, Irl) 22, 65.26; 3 Une des Cresles (P Martin, Fr) 22, 66.02.

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