Equestrianism: Marioni ends the long wait for Italy

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The Independent Online
THE ITALIAN team received the Aga Khan Trophy for the first time since 1962 when winning the Kerrygold Nations Cup yesterday after a hard battle with the Netherlands, whom they beat by 0.75 of a fault. Britain and Ireland, who had been expected to dominate, shared third place.

Only two riders, the 24-year-old Alessia Marioni for Italy and Nick Skelton for Britain, jumped double clear rounds within the tight time allowed. Marioni, who was riding in only her third Nations Cup, achieved her first ever double clear on the grey gelding, Maradonna van de Helle.

Skelton, with many Nations Cup successes behind him, had two wonderful rounds with David Broome's Virtual Village Hopes are High, who he has been riding for little more than a month. Ronnie Massarella, the Great Britain team manager, must now regard this new partnership as prime contenders for the World Equestrian Games to be held in Rome in October.

Massarella had been hoping for the first British Nations Cup win of the year but, despite Skelton's fine effort as first rider of the team, it was not to be. Di Lampard, who followed on Abbervail Dream, had been foot perfect until misjudging the final oxer in the first round and removing the top two poles. On his reappearance, the normally reliable team horse hit the planks and put a foot in the water which followed for the discard score of eight faults.

James Fisher and Renville, unsettled when he entered the arena to the cheering which followed a clear round from Ireland's Captain John Ledingham, had the middle element of the treble down first time but jumped an impressive clear at the second attempt.

John Whitaker, whose Diamond Cliff was the least experienced of the British horses, used all his skill to get the big horse round on nine faults (eight for two jumping errors and one on time) and he looked to be heading for a second-round clear until clobbering the final obstacle.

Britain, lying only fifth at halfway, made a small advance to equal third before Italy's Guido Dominici and Friso jumped the four-fault round that kept his country in the lead.

KERRYGOLD DUBLIN HORSE SHOW: Kerrygold Nations Cup: 1 Italy 8 faults; 2 The Netherlands 8.75; 3 Great Britain and Ireland 12; 4 Belgium 18.5; 5 Germany 21. Samsung Nations Cup Series standings: 1 France 32pts; 2 The Netherlands 30; 3 Germany 26. Kerrygold Hit and Hurry: 1 Senator Mighty Blue (R Smith, GB) 26pts, 62.62secs; 2 Fedor (P Geerink, Neth) 25pts, 63.95; 3 Millstreet Ruby (Capt J Ledingham, Irl) 24pts, 62.57.