Billington rides without fault

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Geoff Billington was the only rider to jump two faultless rounds in yesterday's ENZA Nations Cup, in which he made a vital contribution to the Bri- tish victory and strengthened his strong claims for a place on the Olympic team with It's Otto.

Other members of the winning quartet also played their part: Michael Whitaker had one mistake in each round on Midnight Madness; Di Lampard and Abbervail Dream rolled a pole off the third fence but was clear at the second attempt, and John Whitaker jumped a perfect first round on Welham and was not required to make a second effort.

By then a British victory was assured. In the end it was achieved by a comfortable margin of 10.75 faults over Ireland, with France (the joint- leaders with Britain at half-time) third.

"I'm relieved and happy," said Ronnie Massarella, the British team manager. "The way they jumped they could win anything." He believes they will be stronger still if Michael Whitaker can ride Twostep (just back in action after a couple of freak accidents) in place of Midnight Madness.

It has to be said that the opposition was not at full strength but the signs were undeniably promising, in particular the performance of It's Otto. "There's nothing he can't jump and he's so careful with it," Bill- ington, 41, said of the Dutch-bred horse that he bought as a four-year- old six years ago.

At Massarella's suggestion, Billington and John Whitaker have each lost about a stone in weight, which should help them cope with the heat and humidity of Atlanta. Although the British Olympic team will not be named until 2 July, Massarella said the Whitaker brothers, Nick Skelton (now jumping in Lisbon) and Billington "have nearly sealed themselves."

Results, Sporting Digest, Page 27