Equestrianism: Firestone shuns help and finds fast route to success

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ALISON FIRESTONE completed a lucrative double at her first Olympia Show Jumping Championships when she rode Royal Future to win last night's Olympia Grand Prix, the closing contest of the meeting.

The 23-year-old from Virginia, who became the first American victor of the Grand Prix, thereby added pounds 16,000 to the pounds 13,500 that she had collected when triumphing with Arnica de la Barre in Sunday's "winner-takes-all" Kickon Masters. "I'm definitely in shock," she said, after winning the two most valuable prizes on offer here.

First to go in the four-horse jump-off last night, the stylish Firestone sped to a fast clear round that no one could match. Robert Smith, who had helped her, said that she ignored his advice. "I told her to go round the fence to the third, but she went inside. This girl needs handicapping, not helping."

Helena Weinberg from Germany finished runner-up on the brilliant Little Gun, 0.49sec behind Firestone. Lars Nieberg was a split second faster than the winner ("Lars was making me very nervous," Firestone said) but had the last two fences down to be third - one place ahead of Peter Charles, who had a fall with Traxdata Amber du Montois. Robert Smith, who was fifth and best of the British after a single error in the opening round on Senator Tees Hanauer, became the leading rider of the show.

Earlier John Whitaker gained his seventh victory of the meeting - and his sixth with the grey Hungarian-bred stallion Virtual Village Randi - when he defeated Belgium's Ludo Philippaerts in a rip-roaring finale to the Knock-Out.

A few hours earlier, Randi had won the Eurosport Christmas Hamper by a 0.47sec margin, defeating Di Lampard, who was on the French-bred mare, Equity, with Italy's Arnaldo Bologni finishing third.

Visiting riders dominated the earlier Perton Signs Christmas Eve Six Bar with two Germans - the former world champion Franke Sloothaak and the current Olympic champion Ulrich Kirchhoff - sharing first place after jumping five clear rounds apiece.

Kirchhoff, riding seven-year-old Damhus los del Rio, looked to have won the top prize to himself when Sloothaak's mount, Gio Granno, dislodged a rail from the last obstacle. As it turned out, however, the horse had nudged off a lower rail which did not count against him and first place was shared.

Results, Digest, page 23