GRAND PRIX day at the Mediterranean Equestrian Tour saw veteran showjumpers in the prize money at Oliva Nova facing one of the most challenging courses yet in the competition.
Geoff Billington came fifth in the Diamond Grand Prix on Uppercut, the highest-placed British rider, behind Ireland's Peter Charles on Murka's Vindicat in second and Niall Talbot in fourth on Nicos de la Cense.
Germany's Marc Bettinger took the top prize on Quannan R with a jump-off time of 40.07 seconds - only 0.47 seconds ahead of Peter Charles who, in turn, beat Max Kühner by a mere 0.06 of a second.
Kühner was riding his Coeur de Lion, owned by his compatriot and veteran of the international showjumping circuit, Germany's Markus Fuchs.
Spain did not fare quite so well, with Miguel Honrubia Albariño on Sacré Coeur coming 18th with one time fault in the first round and Carolina Aresu on Jassmina dels Pins 20th with two time faults, although with rosettes and prize money to 21st place, they both managed to walk away with ribbons.
The UK's child prodigy Chloe Aston was also in the money, but with an unusually-low 15th place, on Kolibri Classic, with whom she netted her first Diamond 3 win on Saturday, thanks to four faults in the jump-off despite a clear round in the first leg of the class.
Nevertheless, Chloe took first place in the Diamond 1 round on Château de Brion Quainton, a class that saw some unprecedented results including Geoff Billington being eliminated on Apollo Star Volo and Spain's 'golden girl' of the competition, Diana Marsa, retiring mid-round with Oural Villelongue.
The Premium classes – international open amateur competitions – once again saw a high standard with the seemingly-unstoppable combination of Ellen Celis, from Belgium and Waikiki 5 winning the Premium 2, although she fell to 16th in the Premium Grand Prix on Coco Chanel after netting four faults for a knock-down, putting her only just out of the ribbons, which were given to 12th place.
The Premium Grand Prix was won by Ellen's compatriot, Pieter Dejager, on Laccos in a jump-off time of 37.21 seconds.
Monday will see riders and horses getting a day off, and the competition resumes again on Tuesday with the young horse classes, for mounts of five, six and seven years old.
Photos: (1) Pieter Dejager on Laccos, winner of Premium Grand Prix; (2) Robert Vos, Diamond 2 winner; (3) The UK's Chloe Aston on Château de Brion Quainton, first placed in the Diamond 1 class; (4) Germany's Marc Bettinger on Quannan R, first place in the Diamond Grand Prix