Equestrianism: Skelton rides double clear to win Saddle

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The Independent Online
Nick Skelton won the final contest of The Horse of the Year Show when he rode his Olympic mount, Virtual Village Showtime, to the only double clear round of the Golden Saddle Grand Prix at Wembely Arena.

Great cheers of delight accompanied the mare's nimble leap over the last fence, which assured Skelton of his third victory of the show - and his third in this contest which he had also won in 1990 and 1995. This time he defeated Ireland's Peter Charles on his wonderful seven-year-old, Nustria, and Belgium's Dirk Demeersman on El Paso.

Grannusch, the mount of John Whitaker, had caused surprise in the opening round by stopping at the first fence in an otherwise flawless round. Under the odd format, Whitaker was among the top six who came back for the timed second round - in which he jumped a cautious clear round only to incur three time faults. The tight time was, according to Skelton, a deliberate ploy to discourage riders from "walking round". But for finishing 2.01sec over the time, Whitaker would have been runner-up.

Stefan Corten had earlier thrown down the gauntlet in dramatic style when he rode Helada to a deceptively fast clear round to win the Speed Horse of the Year title. The Belgian had been first of 24 to jump and, when Helada slipped and almost fell after the second last fence, he was fairly sure that he would be beaten. But, though the slip must have cost him a valuable second, Corten's opponents chased his time in vain.

The show attracted a total of 21,000 spectators and proved itself financially viable. Next year, on its 50th anniversary, it will run from 25 to 29 September.

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