Equestrianism: Elder Whitaker has rare double in his sights: Sibling rivalry provides optimism for Britain's chances in Silk Cut Derby

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JOHN WHITAKER'S whirlwind clear round in yesterday's jump-off for the Silk Cut Derby Trial gave him victory, by just 0.2sec, over his younger brother Michael.

Drawn first in the jump-off on

Everest Gammon, John looked down the list of the 10 riders to follow him. 'I was more worried about Michael than anyone else,' the elder Whitaker said. 'That's why I went so fast, I knew he was behind me.'

Gammon, according to his rider, excels at making short turns into big fences. He did just that with telling effect yesterday, completing a swift clear round that no one could equal. Michael Whitaker, on My Mesieur, was the only rider within shouting distance when taking the runner-up prize, 11.10sec ahead of Australia's Charlie Moffat who was third on Kelso Mulga Bill.

Michael Whitaker had jumped an opening clear round on Monsanta (with whom he seeks a third Silk Cut Derby victory tomorrow) but he withdrew the 19-year-old veteran before the jump-off. 'It was tempting to go again on Monsanta, but I'm glad I didn't,' he said. 'We wouldn't have had a chance of beating John.'

Having come so close to beating his brother, the younger Whitaker feels that he now has two splendid mounts for tomorrow's classic. The French-bred My Mesieur had never competed at Hickstead until finishing second here on Thursday. Another runner-up prize yesterday has convinced the rider that My Mesieur is capable of tackling tomorrow's big course of 16 fences.

John Whitaker is not bothered by the superstition that winning the Derby Trial means certain defeat in the Derby itself. Eddie Macken is the only rider to have achieved the double with Boomerang in 1979 but the elder Whitaker is ignoring the statistics. 'I decided to try and win this one and think about the Derby afterwards,' he said.

Karen Dixon has been forced to withdraw Get Smart from the European Three-Day Event Championships at Achselschwang in Germany from 9 to 12 September. The 13-year- old gelding cut his elbow when falling in the water at Gatcombe on 15 August and the surface skin has not yet healed.

Virginia Leng will now be the only rider on the British team with

previous experience of a senior championship. Nick Burton will join Leng, Charlotte Bathe and William Fox-Pitt on the team, with Helen Bell and Kristina Gifford competing as individuals.

Gifford was due to be on the British team for next week's Burghley Three-Day Event. She is replaced by Frances Hay Smith who joins the three other selected riders: Lynne Bevan, Tanya Cleverly and Andrew Harris.

SILK CUT DERBY MEETING (Hickstead): Silk Cut Derby Trial: 1 Everest Gammon (J Whitaker, GB) clear, 35.40sec; 2 Everest My Mesieur (M Whitaker, GB) clear, 35.60; 3 Kelso Mulga Bill (C Moffat, Aus) clear, 46.70.

(Photograph omitted)

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