Equestrian: Whitakers' new mounts on trial

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THE NEW mounts of John and Michael Whitaker can confirm the high hopes that have been placed in them when they jump for the British team at the Aachen International Horse Show, which begins today in Germany.

John's new partner is 10-year-old Virtual Village Flower, formerly ridden for the Netherlands by Eric van der Vleuten. "She's quite hot, but she suits me," Whitaker said of the bay mare, who had proved that point by jumping three clear rounds to be runner-up in the Modena Grand Prix in Italy this month.

The elder Whitaker, who will also be taking Welham and Hunter's Level to Aachen, expects to ride Flower in the Nations Cup on Friday. Welham, who won the St Gallen Grand Prix last month, will probably compete in the Aachen equivalent on Sunday.

Flower was in the Dutch team in last year's World Equestrian Games - as was Michael Whitaker's new mount, Calvaro (which should not be confused with the Swiss team horse of the same name). It was then being ridden by Jos Lansink. The bay stallion only arrived at Michael Whitaker's Nottinghamshire yard on Friday, so he will be aimed at the smaller classes, leaving Ashley as a probable contender for the Nations Cup.

Both Calvaro and another former Lansink ride, the eight-year-old mare Fleur, were bought by the brothers Graham and Gary Gillespie for Michael to ride. They were especially anxious to acquire Fleur, but they could only do so if they bought the stallion as well. The mare's debut with Michael will therefore be awaited with much interest.

A strong British team, which also includes Nick Skelton, Geoff Billington and Di Lampard, will compete in the vast Aachen arena where the major show jumping contests are the toughest and most competitive in the world.

Kirsty Mepham, riding Dikkiloo, will be the sole British representative in the brand new dressage stadium. Yesterday Mepham was named as one of five British riders from whom the European Championship team of four will be selected.

BRITISH TEAM SHORTLIST (European Dressage Championship, Arnhem, Neth, 30 June to 4 July): F Bigwood (Macho), R Davison (Hiscox Askari), C Hester (Legal Democrat), K Mepham (Dikkiloo) and S Phillips (Fun).