Equestrianism: Skelton rises from turf to grab glory

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British riders displayed wonderful resilience when they fought back from the serious possibility of collecting the booby prize to win yesterday's Samsung Super League Nations Cup by a three-fault margin.

British riders displayed wonderful resilience when they fought back from the serious possibility of collecting the booby prize to win yesterday's Samsung Super League Nations Cup by a three-fault margin.

Appropriately the main contribution was provided by the two British Olympic riders - Robert Smith, who achieved the sole double clear round of the contest on Marius Claudius, and Nick Skelton, who conjured a vital last round for just one time fault on Russel.

With a total of 17 faults, they eventually won from France (20) and Belgium (24), with the Irish, who had held the lead at half-way, back in fifth (36).

Skelton was due to ride his Olympic mount, Arko III, but the stallion had been coughing a couple of days earlier and, when he was scoped on Thursday evening, was found to have mucus in his throat and lungs. Skelton is confident that the bay horse will be ready to compete in Dublin in two weeks time and in Athens a fortnight later, but the grey Russel had to be drafted in as his replacement for yesterday's team contest here.

Russel had a bad start, sending Skelton over his head and on to the Hickstead turf with a refusal at the eighth fence in his first round. He was praying that he would not have to jump Russel again but this proved to be a forlorn hope when Robert Whitaker retired with Qualite.

Skelton went in knowing that a clear round would give Britain victory and he achieved it with great panache on the far from easy grey. "He rode like a man possessed, he was absolutely at his best," said the British team manager, Derek Ricketts, said.

Longines Royal International Horse Show (Hickstead, Sussex): Samsung Super League Nations Cup: 1 Great Britain 17 faults; 2 France 20; 3 Belgium 24; 4 The Netherlands 28; 5 Ireland 36; 6= Germany and USA 40; 8 Italy 61. GB scores: Mr Springfield (R Smith) 0, 0; Luc (R Davenport) 8, 0; Qualite (R Whitaker) 8, retired; Russel (N Skelton) retired, 0. Osborne Refrigerators International Stakes: 1 Marius Claudius (R Smith, GB) clear, 72.92sec; 2 Aboyeur (H-H Engemann, Ger) clear, 74.48; 3 Glenn (A Pollmann-Schweckhorst, Ger) clear, 76.04. Sussex Speed Stakes: 1 Loro Piana Hamlet (G Williams, GB) 77.70sec; 2 JPC Rexito (J-M Nicolas, Fr) 78.96; 3 Cushty (J Renwick, GB) 81.21.

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