British riders left in limbo

Great Britain will compete in the Abu Dhabi leg of the Nations Cup showjumping competition with relegation from the elite league hanging over them.

GHANTOOT // Great Britain will compete in the Abu Dhabi leg of the Nations Cup showjumping competition this Friday with the threat of possible relegation from the elite league hanging over them. Britain, Belgium and Italy will take part in the competition at Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club from tomorrow until Saturday, but their future status in the top-tier competition is unclear.

The teams had been ruled out of the 2010 Nations Cup and consigned to a second division promotional league following confusion over the criteria for separating teams tied on points in the eight-event 2009 series. Britain and Belgium finished joint eighth in the 10-team league and, at first, they thought their place was assured for 2010 when initially only Italy, who finished behind them, were relegated.

But now both Britain and Belgium have been demoted. An appeal to the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) was dismissed on January 22 and British showjumping chiefs have 30 days in which to submit an appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland. The British Equestrian Federation (BEF) are now considering their options, but issued a statement saying: "We are very disappointed by this and need to consider the decision of the FEI tribunal in detail before deciding our next move.

"We will also consult our stakeholders prior to making a final decision." In the meantime, Britain's showjumping team - consisting of the country's No 1 Ben Maher, Ellen Whitaker, Robert Smith and Guy Williams - will take part in the Ghantoot event. "There is some confusion about what is happening," said Smith. He will compete for Britain this weekend on Raging Bull Vangelis S and Talan, who arrived in the UAE on Sunday.

"The FEI has said we are not part of the top tier any more, but the BEF does not accept it and it looks like we are heading for a court case over it. Obviously that is quite a tricky situation." Rather than dwelling on the state of limbo in which the British team finds themselves, Smith, who was fourth at the 2004 Olympic Games is a veteran of 86 Nations Cups, and has 18 Nations Cup titles, said he was hoping for a strong showing from Britain as a team and as an individual.

"I'm just planning on doing as well as we possibly can," he said. "My horses are fit and seem in good form. "Vangelis hasn't done anything since winning a class at Olympia [in December] but he's a good horse and is very good for outdoor arena showjumping." The ?500,000 (Dh2.6 million) show, is billed as the President of the UAE Showjumping Cup, but incorporates the Nations Cup on Friday and concludes on Saturday with the President of the UAE Showjumping Cup Grand Prix.

The competition will see UAE-based riders compete alongside the world's best, including participants from Germany, Ireland, Holland, France and Sweden. The UAE's Beijing Olympian, Sheikha Latifa Al Maktoum will also be in action.