Equestrianism: Flower power wilts for Britain

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The Independent Online
GERMANY DEFEATED Britain by the narrow margin of three-quarters of a fault to win yesterday's Samsung Nations Cup. Italy was helped into third place by Jerry Smit, who jumped the only double clear round of the competition on Loro Piana Lux.

Nick Skelton had opened the scoring for Britain with a fine clear round on Hopes are High, before Michael Whitaker made a single error at the last fence in another impressive performance on his new mount, Friday's Grand Prix runner-up Virtual Village Calvaro.

Di Lampard also had a single lapse on Abbervail Dream, but John Whitaker had a disappointing 8.75 on Flower, the British team's discard. The mare had looked wonderfully fluent in Aachen last month, but was less so in the big international arena in the first round.

At the half-way stage, the Netherlands and Italy were sharing the lead on four faults, with Germany third on 7.5 and Britain fourth on eight. Chances of a British comeback took a nosedive when Skelton withdrew because Hopes are High hit a pole and was lame.

The remaining three, all of whose scores had to count, put up a spirited fight. Michael Whitaker had a quarter time fault, Calvaro having been 0.03sec over, and Lampard had another single mistake, leaving John Whitaker the possibility of securing a British victory if he could go clear on Flower.

That hope stayed alive until the mare, looking far more impressive on her second appearance, hit the penultimate fence and so put the seal on a German victory without their last rider, Ludger Beerbaum, needing to jump again.

The interpretation of the rules for the International Championship British Team Trials (for which final points were on offer here in Friday's Grand Prix and in the Nations Cup) led to some heated exchanges when Skelton was given five points for his first round clear. So Michael Whitaker, Robert Smith and Skelton are the three who automatically qualify for the squad of five for the European Championships to be held here in August.

Results, Digest, Page 31