Equestrianism: Slow start 'feels good' for Smith in build-up to Olympics

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The Independent Online

Robert Smith, who will be first to go for Britain when he rides Mr Springfield in today's opening Nations Cup in this year's Super League series, had his mind on an Olympic place rather than winning any prizes yesterday. Like most of the other riders, he opted to jump a slow schooling round in the smart, newly renovated La Baule arena in the Pays de la Loire region of France.

Robert Smith, who will be first to go for Britain when he rides Mr Springfield in today's opening Nations Cup in this year's Super League series, had his mind on an Olympic place rather than winning any prizes yesterday. Like most of the other riders, he opted to jump a slow schooling round in the smart, newly renovated La Baule arena in the Pays de la Loire region of France.

This was Mr Springfield's first outdoor contest since he jumped in the European Championships at Donaueschingen in Germany last August. The horse had one fence down in a slow time, but the important thing according to Smith was that he "felt good".

He will need to be feeling fit and well for today's big contest in which Britain are drawn second of the eight teams, which means that Smith will be the second rider to tackle the course. "I don't mind where I go, it doesn't make any difference to me," he said after team manager Derek Ricketts had chosen the order for the quartet.

Smith will be followed by Michael Whitaker on Fleur and Scott Smith on Cabri d'Elle, with Nick Skelton on Arko III filling the last place. Both Arko and Cabri d'Elle jumped clear rounds yesterday, but they were also concerned with accuracy rather than speed and so finished outside the prize money.

Ricketts was in buoyant mood yesterday when he discussed the team's prospects. "Some countries have got weaker, but we've been getting stronger," he said. "We have a good chance of winning the series."

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