James Fisher, the first of 16 into the jump-off, had given the others a serious target to chase with a swift clear round on Tiptoe. He had taken a short-cut into the fifth jump-off fence and it was evident that no one would overtake him without following the same route.
John Whitaker, winner of the Grand Prix in Aachen on Virtual Village Welham, was riding with a sense of urgency when he took this short-cut on Barry Bug, only for the horse to run past the fence, incurring three faults. In the end Smith was the only one to beat Fisher's time, by 0.24sec.
Nick Skelton was in no hurry when jumping a polished clear round on Virtual Village Zalza, whose confidence will have been boosted by this excercise which left him in sixth.
Skelton is preparing for a legal battle with Joe Haller, the Swiss former owner of Dollar Girl, who claims the Briton owes him some of the prizemoney he won last year. In accordance with legal advice, Skelton declined to comment.
The victorious Mighty Blue has been a wonderfully game performer for Smith, who rode him to a joint victory in the puissance in Rome this year when jumping a height of 7ft 2in. "You can put him in any class and he'll be competitive," Smith said of the 12-year-old grey.
Smith is enjoying an unexpectedly successful season despite losing the brilliant young stallion Big Time, who died after an attack of colic. His new mount, For the Best, has "a fantastic jump" and could well become a top grand prix horse.
Smith later teamed up with his brother Steven for the Pet Plan Family Pair Relay. But this time Robert had a refusal while aiming for a fast time on For the Best, whereas John Whitaker went fast and faultless on Cowboy Magic to win in partnership with his daughter, Louise.
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