United States Wins Sixth Leg of Samsung Super League at Hickstead, UK
From Louise Parkes for the FEI
AMERICAN GIRLS POWER HOME AS BRITISH SNATCH DEFEAT FROM THE JAWS OF VICTORY.....
Lexington, KY) - The all-girl American team produced a crisp, clean victory at the sixth leg of the Samsung Super League with FEI series at Hickstead, England today where the much-fancied home squad lost out in the closing stages. Ahead at the half-way stage, the British lost their grip as the second round progressed, but three second-round clears saw the USA rise from third to pole position, and this moves them off the bottom of the leaderboard going into the penultimate round in Dublin in two weeks' time.
For Sweden however things did not go so well. Finishing in fifth place they slipped to the bottom of the table, but its far from over yet because only 3.5 points separate the Americans in sixth, the French in seventh and the Swedes in eighth place - none of them can afford to breathe too easily....
It was the perfect result for deputy US Chef d'Equipe Melanie Smith-Taylor on a day when big scores were recorded by many of the other teams. "I'm thrilled to have been part of it" she said afterwards, adding "and it had been great to do this for George". American manager George Morris is with his squad at the Pan-American Games in Rio de Janeiro and Laura Kraut, a member of today's winning side, said "we won this for him - believe me, we've been driving him crazy up to this point but at last we got it right!".
Knowing that relegation from the Samsung Super League with FEI series faces the team finishing last at the end of the series the Americans sent a super-strong side to the British venue. Things had just not been going their way in previous rounds and Kraut pointed out "we needed to redeem ourselves today" - and they succeeded.....
The first tour of the 12-fence track designed by Bob Ellis quickly demonstrated the weakness of some of the other sides, and at the half-way point Switzerland was lying last with 34 faults behind Belgium with 28, Germany with 25, France carrying 21 and Sweden with 17. The Netherlands and the USA shared a first-round tally of 12 while Great Britain held a commanding seven-point lead with just five on the board. Ellen Whitaker's eight faults with Locarno was the drop-score leaving just the single error from pathfinders Nick Skelton and Russell at the bogey second element of the double at three and the single time fault from William Funnell and Cortaflex Mondriaan to count when Michael Whitaker and Suncal Portofino produced one of only two first-round clears, the other coming from Holland's Wim Schroder and Eurocommerce Pennsylvania.
A clear from Skelton second time out appeared to signal a home-side celebration but things began to unravel when Locarno clipped the second element of the penultimate double while also collecting a time fault and when Funnell's Mondriaan left both the Samsung oxer at fence five and the same second element of the second-last on the floor it was all hanging in the balance - and all the pressure was on Michael Whitaker.
By then the Dutch had slipped down the order despite an opening second-round clear from Willem Greve and the impressive KEC Maximum Joe after single mistakes from both Schroder and Jochen Munsterhuis riding Munsterhuis Sportscars Okometa at the fifth were added and Leopold Van Asten's 12 faults with VDL Groep Fleche Rouge were discarded. All four US riders had faulted once first time out, but Kraut and Anthem led the way into the decider with a foot-perfect run before Christine McCrea and Vegas faulted at the second last only to be followed by clears from both Molly Ashe-Cawley and Cocu and Beezie Madden with Judgement. Madden was the one who really put the pressure on Whitaker, her determined, cool, careful and confident round underlining years of experience and an iron will.
Whitaker now could only afford one time fault if the home team was to repeat their 2006 victory but Portofin
Photos by PhelpsPhotos®.com and Bob Langrish