Equestrianism: Beerbaum favoured by the luck of the draw

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Ludger Beerbaum used his stylish technique with great effect for the third consecutive day yesterday when he rode Sprehe Rush On to win the Vink Christmas Masters on the fourth day of the Olympia Show Jumping Championships.

The German rider thus added the winner-takes-all prize of pounds 15,500 to the Volvo car (worth pounds 20,000) which he won with PS Priamos in Saturday's World Cup qualifier and the pounds 3,750 he collected on Friday night as joint winner of the UPS Puissance on Alex H.

"Even when the horses are jumping so well, you still need the luck of the draw," Beerbaum said. That luck came when Ireland's Peter Charles pulled the German's name out of the hat and so enabled him to go last of the seven riders qualified for the Masters.

The rules of the contest (for which the prize started at pounds 4,000 and rose by pounds 500 with each clear round) decree that the victor is the last rider to complete the five-fence course without error.

Michael Whitaker was clear in all five rounds on Virtual Village Ashley only to finish empty-handed when Beerbaum (jumping a higher first fence) also achieved a fifth clear. Two others - John Whitaker on Grannusch and Switzerland's Willi Melliger on Domina III - reached the fifth round before dropping out with their first errors.

"I felt a bit sorry for Michael," said Beerbaum, whose wife and two children were part of the vociferous audience. Both Whitakers had helped to push Beerbaum's prize up to pounds 15,500 - pounds 4,000 more than Nick Skelton collected when winning the same contest last year.

Beerbaum, the European champion, won Saturday's World Cup class with two superb clear rounds, defeating Peter Charles by 1.07sec. The Irishman was, however, left looking as jubilant as the winner. He had ridden at a pace to suit his inexperienced seven-year-old partner and Nustria responded in a style which suggested an illustrious future.