GHANTOOT // Having bagged the Nations Cup in superb style, the Great Britain quartet are now eying tonight's grand finale prize - the inaugural President's Cup of the UAE - which could be the icing on the cake for them in the three-day Five-Star Championship at the Ghantoot Racing and Polo Club tonight. "We hope one of us can go on and win the grand finale prize," said Robert Smith. "We had good success in the team event and the President's Cup will truly be the icing on the cake." "The horses were relaxed and they were just fabulous in the Nations Cup. The competition was tough and we expected this. We got to a good start with Ben [Maher] and Guy [Williams] and then Ellen [Whitaker] did pretty well to keep the balance of the team."
Smith was on the 10-year-old stallion Talan and had the only blemish in the first round with five penalty points but he bounced back in the second round to round off with the team's second best time 77.64 seconds. The young UAE team, comprising Sheikha Latifa Al Maktoum (Kalaska De Semilly), Sheikh Shakboot Al Nahyan (Muscaris D'Ariel), Sheikh Majid Al Qassimi (Co-Jack) and Mohammed al Hajiri (Shakira), finished a creditable fourth in their first ever appearance in a Nations Cup. Germany and the Netherlands stood between them and the champions Great Britain. "This is the first time we participated at this level and it has been an excellent start," said Sheikh Shakboot. "This is a great result and a springboard for the team to compete in similar Five-Star competitions. "We went into the competitions looking for a good performance and we have done better than that by finishing fourth. This result will encourage some of the riders to compete at this level individually and as a team in the upcoming competitions." Al Hajiri said he was only eight when he came to know of some of the international riders like Robert Smith and the German team's double Olympic gold medalist Ulrich Kirchhoff. "I never thought I'll be competing against them," added al Hajiri. "It was a great experience to compete in the Nations Cup. I have learnt bits and pieces from every rider during this competition, and obviously thrilled at our performance."
Taleb Dhaher Al Muhairi, the secretary general of the Emirates Equestrian Federation, was understandably elated of the UAE's result, saying: "They have proved they can compete at the highest level and we are ready to provide them with all assistance to re-present the country in the future competitions." Kirchhoff felt the British team was on a real high and it would have taken some effort to get the better of them on the night. "Of course, we came with the clear intention of winning the Nations Cup but we came up against a team that was just hard to beat. It would have taken a really, really good performance from anyone to beat them on the night." firstname.lastname@example.org