'I thought I had no chance at all of winning,' Beerbaum said, after lowering two fences in the opening round on Almox Ratina. Whitaker's mount, Everest Milton, had jumped an apparently effortless clear first time despite the distraction of camera flashlights.
But Milton, now 16, was also to prove fallible. The announcer had asked for no flashlights when this idol of the crowd jumped for the second time and there were certainly fewer as Whitaker jumped, knowing he could afford but one mistake if he were to gain a record third World Cup.
There was a gasp from the stands when Milton lowered the third fence. 'Maybe that unsettled him a bit or perhaps the first round had taken more out of him than I thought,' Whitaker said. For whatever reason, the great horse made his only other error at the obstacle which followed. Whitaker nevertheless won a Volvo car as leading rider of the show - as did his younger brother Michael, who was runner-up on overall points.
Beerbaum only began riding Ratina towards the end of last year and he has never yet competed on her outdoors - though he may well do so at Hickstead next month. The French-bred Rhum IV had never competed indoors before the American rider, Michael Matz, brought him here to finish third in the World Cup. Two women from the US - Susan Hutchinson and Beezie Patton - took fourth and fifth places.
The contrasting fortunes of two other British contestants, Michael Whitaker and Nick Skelton, continued. Whitaker moved up from equal 18th to finish equal eighth on Everest Midnight Madness; Skelton, who had been lying fourth, took a crashing fall in the treble with Limited Edition and retired from the competition.
VOLVO WORLD CUP (Gothenburg) Final result: 1 L Beerbaum (Ger) 8 faults; 2 J Whitaker (GB) 10.5; 3 M Matz (US) 12.5; 4 S Hutchinson (US) 14.5; 5 B Patton (US) 19.5; 6 R Tebbel (Ger) 22; 7 H Luther (Ger) 23; 8= M Whitaker (GB), D Hafemeister (Ger) 24. Leading rider in show: 1 J Whitaker 63pts; 2 M Whitaker (GB) 53; 3 R Tebble (Ger) 52.Reuse content