Equestrianism: Hickstead date for Beerbaum

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The Independent Online
LUDGER BEERBAUM, the German rider who became Olympic champion in Barcelona earlier this month, heads the overseas entries for Sunday's Silk Cut Derby at Hickstead.

Beerbaum, who celebrated his 29th birthday yesterday, will be riding the grey Almox Athletico with whom he finished third last year. His only mistake on that occasion came when the horse stopped at the summit of the 10ft 6ins Derby Bank and took a step backwards, incurring three faults.

Just a fortnight after his Olympic success with Classic Touch, Beerbaum rode Grand Plaisir to victory in last Sunday's Grand Prix at Rotterdam. He could make this month even more memorable by capturing the pounds 35,000 first prize (an increase of pounds 2,000 over last year) in Sunday's marathon contest over a course of 16 fences. An additional pounds 5,000 will be won if the winner achieves a clear first round and another in the jump- off.

Two of the horses competing at the four-day Sussex meeting, which begins this morning, have already won a derby this year. Vivaldi, the mount of Brazil's Nelson Pessoa, achieved his win at Hamburg; Heather Blaze, ridden by Ireland's Robert Splaine, won at Millstreet in Co Cork last weekend.

British riders have triumphed in this annual classic, which was first held in 1961, for the last five years. Michael Whitaker, the victor in 1991 with Henderson Monsanta, will be aiming for a repeat performance on the 18-year-old who has been rested since the Olympics with this contest in mind.

Tina Cassan and Treffer, last year's runners-up, will also be having another crack at the long and formidable course, which includes three parts of the Devil's Dyke (normally the most influential obstacle of the course) as well as the spectacular Derby Bank.

They were clear last year but incurred half a fault for exceeding the time allowed by 1.08sec. Cassan also rides the eight-year- old chestnut Genesis, with whom she was reserve for the British Olympic team.

Joe Turi will again be riding the stallion Vital, with whom he won in 1990. But Everest Apollo (who gave Nick Skelton the last two of his three consecutive victories from 1987 to 1989) will only be at Hickstead to say farewell to his fans.

Now 17, Apollo is to retire to the hunting field after a distinguished show jumping career in which he proved his all-round talent with victories in grands prix, puissance and speed contests. Ridden by Skelton since early 1984, the white-faced bay gelding won a total of pounds 326,778 in prize- money.