Equestrianism: Skelton sweeps to a double

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The Independent Online
NICK SKELTON added two more victories to his tally at the Royal Windsor Horse Show when he completed a double yesterday with Thursday's winning horse, Virtual Village Carte Gene. The eight- year-old was again in sparkling form when defeating LBH Heartbreaker, the mount of Dutchman Peter Geerink, by 4.32sec in the Hildon Gentlemen's Jumping Championship.

Skelton's winning margin had been even more convincing when he took the Traxdata Great Park Stakes on his Olympic mount, Showtime, who lost some of her enthusiasm through her efforts in Atlanta but has found a new lease of life after a few months out in the field.

"She's fast and careful, when you put her down a level there's no better horse," Skelton said, after defeating Germany's Heinrich-Hermann Engemann by 4.96sec. He will not attempt to put Showtime back up to a higher level again by aiming her at this year's World Equestrian Games in Italy, but (contrary to the impression he gave here on Thursday) he has not totally ruled out the idea of trying to get there with one of his younger horses.

George Bowman, runner-up in the last two World Championships for driving four-horse teams, has every intention of competing in the Games. He held a substantial lead of 6.9pts after yesterday's dressage phase and, now 63, will be looking for an easy drive in today's marathon.

Bowman's son, confusingly known as George Bowman IV, also hopes to get to the Games. He holds the lead in the horse pairs section here but he will be competing with a team of four horses in future contests this year.

Carl Hester, who seems sure to be in Britain's dressage team at the Games, underlined his claims by winning the Hermes Grand Prix on Legal Democrat. He scored 67.27 per cent to beat Joanna Jackson on Mester Mouse and Lizzie Loriston-Clarke on Catherston Dazzler.

Georgina Frith, who holds the European Championship for teams of four ponies, has taken the lead in her section with her nimble Welsh ponies. She has an advantage of 4.6pts over the Duke of Edinburgh driving the Queen's team of Fell ponies, who are used as pack animals on the royal estate at Balmoral.

ROYAL WINDSOR HORSE SHOW: Traxdata Great Park Stakes: 1 Virtual Village Showtime (N Skelton, GB) clear, 56.52sec; 2 Di Jacomo (H-H Engemann, Ger) clear, 61.48; 3 Punjab (J -M Nicolas, Fr) clear, 63.67. Hermes Grand Prix for dressage: 1 Legal Democrat (C Hester) 67.27 per cent ; 2 Mester Mouse (J Jackson) 66.33; 3 Catherston Dazzler (L Loriston-Clarke) 66.13. Asprey International Driving Grand Prix (leaders after dressage): Horse teams: G Bowman (GB); Pony teams: G Frith (GB); Horse pairs: G Bowman IV (GB); Pony pairs: S Smith (US); Single horse: S Garnett (GB); Single pony: L Wood (GB). Hildon Gentleman's Jumping Championship: 1 Virtual Village Carte Gene (N Skelton, GB) clear, 43.24sec; 2 LBH Heartbreaker (P Geerink, Neth) clear, 47.56; 3 Traxdata La Ina (P Charles, Irl) 4 faults, 45.41.