Equestrianism: Another Whitaker win

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The Independent Online
JOHN WHITAKER extended his family's monopoly of top prizes at The Horse of the Year Show yesterday, when he rode Virtual Village Welham to win the Horseware Rambo Cup on the third day of the meeting. It raised the Whitaker tally to six victories: two for John, one for his daughter, Louise, and three for his brother, Michael.

Welham, an 18-year-old who had also won here on Thursday, was (according to his rider) "enjoying himself and pleased to be back". The gelding has shown no sign of being rusty after his nine-month lay-off with a leg injury - much as it might have been welcomed by Belgium's Dominique Hendrickx, who had held the lead until Whitaker, who was last of 14 into the jump- off, took it from him.

Nick Skelton was going for broke on Zalza - and about to record a seemingly unbeatable time - when the chestnut ran out at the final fence. Would Skelton have won otherwise? Not necessarily according to Whitaker, because he would then have been looking to go much faster.

Michael Whitaker's third win of the meeting was achieved in the Daewoo Championship on Thursday night, when he rode Virtual Village Ashley with great panache to defeat James Fisher on Traxdata Renville by 0.65sec.

It provided some compensation for him as he is not part of the Great Britain squad for the World Equestrian Games which open next week in Rome. It will be the first time since the Olympic Games of 1988 that he has been omitted from the team.

John Whitaker, who rides Heyman in Rome, thinks he might have a future star in Denise Stamp's homebred eight-year-old mare, Amber du Montois, with whom he was fifth with one jump-off error in the Daewoo. Whitaker has ridden the mare for barely a month and he is confident that she will stop fighting for her head once he has found the right bit to put in her mouth.

William Funnell was equally enthusiastic about Aniapollo, the seven- year-old gelding that he rode to victory in yesterday's Danco Grade C Championship. "There's nothing he can't do, he has a great future," Funnell said.