Equestrianism: Elton on song for Whitaker

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The Independent Online
Ireland's Marion Hughes had the distinction of defeating the two Whitaker brothers, both at their most polished and determined, when winning last night's Leading Show Jumper of the Year title at The Horse of the Year Show. But there was precious little in it, with a mere 0.26sec dividing the top three.

John Whitaker had seemed the likely victor after his swift clear jump- off round on Grannusch, before Hughes (twice the winner of the Queen's Cup at Hickstead) went ahead on Carnival Bouncer. Michael Whitaker made a spirited attempt to take his family back into the lead only to fail by just 0.04sec on Twostep to finish ahead of his brother as runner-up.

Michael Whitaker's year has been fraught with problems but the stallion, Elton, has provided some bright spots - among them a victory in yesterday's Danco Exhibition Cup.

Elton is not, however, considered a likely prospect for next year's European Championships. Whitaker's hopes for that contest rest with Midnight Madness (sidelined with a pulled ligament in his fetlock), Twostep (prone to back trouble but looking fine last night) and Magic Carpet (who had been off the road with a problem in his back stifle).

Yesterday's victory did nothing to allay Whitaker's anxiety regarding his top mounts, but it was nevertheless pleasant to win the contest from Guy Goosen on Carat and Nigel Coupe on Banbury Cross.

There was more good news for the Whitaker family when Michael's niece, Louise, added the Under-18 National Championship to the Under-21 title she won on Thursday.

James Fisher took the later SGC Twin Towers Trophy on eight-year-old Renville, whom he has brought on slowly since acquiring him in the Netherlands four years ago. Fisher was happy with the unusual format for the class, which was decided on faults in the first round and on time (with four faults added for each error) in the jump-off.

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