Beerbaum accepts a 'gift' gratefully

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reports from Olympia

Ludger Beerbaum, the German Olympic champion, made the most of a splendid opportunity when winning yesterday's Christmas Stocking Stakes on the second day of the Olympia Show Jumping Championships.

Beerbaum, fourth last to jump, had seen Michael Whitaker have one fence down during a whirlwind round on Everest My Mesieur. The leader, Spain's Cayetano Martinez de Irujo on Elegast, was some 5.49sec slower than Whitaker, so Beerbaum knew that the time was obviously beatable.

"When you get a present you should take it," Beerbaum said, after riding Avion to victory over the Spaniard, with William Funnell (the best of the British) in third place on Comex. Beerbaum said his nine-year-old mount is a bit wild ("even in the stable he bites") and that he still lacks concentration in the arena.

The rest of the assessment was more complimentary: "Avion is a natural jumper and a bit special, I think he will make a good Grand Prix horse but time will tell." In the meantime, the German will rely on Sprehe Gaylord for today's Volvo World Cup qualifier and on the mare Ratina for next year's Olympic Games. Hugo Simon, who won two contests here on Thursday for Austria, will ride Apricot D (with whom he scored the second leg of his double) in today's big class.

Beerbaum, who first competed at Olympia in 1987, had to wait three years before he won his first competition here. "I came and saw how tough the competition was," he said. "I would go home and think how far away I am from the top riders." This fine natural horseman has since won the World Cup contest here in 1992 on Ratina and the Grand Prix last year on Gaylord.

Yesterday' opening contest, the Holly Accumulator, provided a clean sweep for French riders who filled the top three places. Herve Godignon took the top prize (by a mere 0.21sec) on Sarcelle de Sisse.

OLYMPIA SHOW JUMPING CHAMPIONSHIPS: Christmas Stocking Stakes: 1 Avion (L Beerbaum, Ger) clear, 49.10sec; 2 Elegast (C Martinez de Irujo, Sp) clear, 53.04; 3 Comex (W Funnell, GB) clear, 53.04. Holly Accumulator: 1 Sarcelle de Sisse (H Godignon, Fr) 36pts, 37.23sec; 2 Rainbow de Trelon (H Bourdy, Fr) 36, 37.44; 3 Athos du Masou (R-Y Bost, Fr) 36, 38.69.

BRITISH EQUESTRIAN WRITERS' ASSOCIATION AWARDS: Equestrian Personality of the Year: A Bradley; Vivien Batchelor Trophy (oustanding young rider): K Duckitt; Liz Dudden Trophy (for contribution to equestrian sport): Lt- Col W Lithgow.