Skelton and Arko reign supreme in Rome

Skelton and Arko reign supreme in Rome

The British dominated the Grand Prix in Rome today when Nick Skelton and Arko came out on top ahead of Michael Whitaker riding Mozart des Hayettes.

“It's taken me a long time to win this one” a very pleased Skelton said afterwards. “I've been coming to Rome for 25 years but this is one of the big Grand Prix's that I had never managed to win up to this. My horse jumped really super today – but I'm glad Michael was a bit slow!” he pointed out, nudging his friend and team-mate in the ribs.

Whitaker didn't mind. For him today's class was a test and he was very happy with the result. Michael is keen to use Mozart as a team horse but British Chef d'Equipe, Derek Ricketts, told him he must show just what the horse can do in a good Grand Prix before he would be considered for selection. So today he went out and did just that.

From a field of 56 starters only eight left the course intact and there was no luck for the US contenders with four faults for Molly Ashe and Neuville at the first element of the combination in an otherwise lovely round, a single error for Candice King and Tarco at the first element of the double, three from home and the same result for Laura Kraut and Anthem who clipped the oxer at fence four, while Christine McCrea and Promised Land left two on the floor. Candice however had a great finish to her weekend when taking the Leading Lady Rider trophy after an excellent week's work.

Time was a factor in selecting the 14 allowed through to the second round and none of the US runners made the cut despite the inclusion of five fastest four-faulters along with Germany's Ulrich Kirchhoff who picked up just a single time penalty first time out with the handsome Carino and then applied the pressure on the remaining eight when clear at his second attempt.

There were precious fractions of seconds to be saved on the turn-back from the fourth-fence oxer to the original fence two, also an oxer, and Britain's Robert Smith showed how difficult it could be to make that turn inside the wall which was the final fence on the track when Marius Claudius almost collided with it. But you could hardly see Kirchhoff's skillful check as he brought Carino to a half-halt and superb turn that made it look relatively easy as he steered his way home in 55.64 seconds.

That time was always beatable but the German was still out in front when the electrifying Frenchman, Jean-Marc Nicolas, hit the infamous fence three vertical that fell consistently throughout the opening round and when rising Irish star, 23 year old Ryan Crumley, lowered two with his stallion Baltimore it was still wide open for the remaining six clear rounders.

Skelton was sixth-last to go and, getting the early turn just right, took another superb line to the two remaining elements of the double to find himself heading for the final wall well up on the clock which stopped on 47.13 seconds. Whitaker was taking no prisoners when following him into the ring but had to settle in behind his fellow-countryman when a half-second slower and when Pierre Jarry and Haxelle Dampierre had two down and Franke Sloothaak (Legurio), Rolf-Goran Bengtsson (Grandina) and Heinrich-Hermann Engemann (Aboyeur) all faulted once it was to be a British one-two.

“When I walked the course I thought there would be a lot more clear rounds than there were” Skelton said. “The run from the water to the gate was difficult but Arko is jumping really well. He's an uncomplicated horse, he always wants to leave the poles up and has all the ability -I wouldn't swap him for any other horse”he said affectionately.

Results (28.05.06)

CSIO***** Roma
Grand Prix – (273.3.3) – 1,60m

1º Skelton Nick (Gbr) / Arko III / 0/0 – 47.13
2º Whitaker Michael (Gbr) / Mozart Des Hayettes / 0 / 0 – 47.62
3º Kirchhoff Ulrich (Ger) / Carino / 1 / 0 – 55.64
4º Sloothaak Franke (Ger) / Legurio / 0 / 4- 44.05
5º Engemann Heinrich-Herman (Ger) / Aboyeur W / 0 / 4 – 46.21
6º Bengtsson Rolf-Goran (Swe) / Grandina 22 / 0 / 4 -46.61
7º Van Der Schans Wout Jan (Hol) / Nouvelle 4 / 0 – 46.75
8º Lafouge Stephan (Fra) / Gabelou Des Ores / 4 / 0- 46.90
9º Nicolas Jean Marc (Fra) / Jpc Modesto Equifoam / 0 / 4- 49.61
10º Jarry Pierre (Fra) / Haxelle Dampierre / 0 / 8 – 53.89

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