Brash braced for final
Team anchorman Scott Brash is ready for another pressure-filled occasion when GB's showjumpers target FEI Nations Cup final glory on Sunday.
The reigning Olympic and European team champions will complete a unique treble if their quartet of Brash, his fellow London 2012 gold medallist Ben Maher, Michael Whitaker and Louise Saywell come up trumps.
At stake in Barcelona is a 500,000 euros (£420,000) jackpot - showjumping's richest prize - with Britain contesting the title alongside Brazil, Holland, Belgium, Ireland, France, Canada and Ukraine.
Such was the standard of Friday's 18-nation qualifying competition that 2013 European bronze medallists Sweden, along with the United States, Switzerland and host country Spain, did not progress.
Britain had to overcome the late withdrawal of Will Funnell, whose horse Billy Congo suffered a minor injury, but 23-year-old Saywell responded brilliantly to her call-up at just two hours' notice by collecting only four faults aboard Hello Winner.
Clear rounds will be the order of the day on Sunday, and Scotsman Brash, in particular, is no stranger to producing world-class performances when stakes are at their highest.
He delivered a stunning double clear during the European individual championship in Denmark last month, which lifted him from 10th place to the bronze medal position, while he also now regularly fills Britain's often critical fourth rider spot in major events.
Great Britain team boss Rob Hoekstra describes Brash as "having ice in his veins", and the 27-year-old has no intention of buckling under the strain this weekend.
"The pressure brings out the best in you," said Brash, whose clear round on Ursula XII confirmed Britain's final place after Saywell, Maher and Whitaker each had one fence down.
"My horse jumped fantastic, and I thought all the others jumped very well. They were just unlucky.
"I thought we had done enough to reach the final before I went in, but when Rob (Hoekstra) told me I had to jump clear I guess it made for a bit more pressure.
"We will just need a bit of luck on the day, and if we get that on Sunday then we have got a good shout."
Britain's rise under Hoekstra has been remarkable since he was appointed in early 2010.
Just a few months previously, Britain were relegated from the Nations Cup top division after they finished equal eighth with Belgium.
But the British Equestrian Federation lodged an appeal with the Court of Arbitration for Sport because there was no definitive Nations Cup rule to separate tied teams in relegation positions, and they won.
Since then, Hoekstra has masterminded a stunning revival highlighted by Olympic and European successes, developed an outstanding team of owners and built a squad that currently features major championship medallists and the new world number one in Maher.
"Friday was not about winning, it was about qualifying," Hoekstra said. "We start again from a zero score on Sunday.
"I expect the course to be slightly bigger, which probably suits our horses quite well, but we will need those clear rounds. Without clear rounds, you are not going to win anything."
Saturday's main action at the Real Club de Polo was the Nations Cup consolation final, which required a jump-off between the United States and Switzerland to decide it.
The Americans would have won had Beezie Madden jumped clear on Simon, but they accrued six faults, which meant a tie with Switzerland and an extra-time decider.
All three Swiss riders had a fence down in the jump-off, but a clear for Madden and just two time faults collected by Mclain Ward aboard Rothchild meant America triumphed.
Saudi Arabia, London 2012 bronze medallists, finished third, with Austria taking fourth spot.