Equestrianism: Ledingham safely home and dry: Rain makes going hazardous but Irish emerge on top

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The Independent Online
IRISH riders filled the top two places on the rain-sodden turf at Hickstead yesterday, with Captain John Ledingham taking the winner's prize of pounds 2,000 in the Homepride Sauces International Stakes on 10-year-old Kilbaha.

Ledingham, who won the Silk Cut Derby here with Gabhran in 1984, plotted a careful route in the jump-off. 'The going in front of each fence had become very deep after 50-odd horses had taken off from the same spot, so I tried to pick fresh ground,' Ledingham said.

Jessica Chesney was nearly eight seconds faster on Diamond Exchange. The horse had survived one anxious moment at the third fence, a big spread, before hitting the later Chinese gate for four faults and second place.

John Whitaker, the only Briton into the five-horse jump-off, did not complete the course. Riding the venerable 17- year-old Everest Hopscotch, he slipped on take-off before hitting the first fence. Hopscotch had two more fences down and refused another before Whitaker retired into fifth place.

Two French riders, Edouard Couperie and Jean-Louis Roudaut, jumped clear in the opening round but retired before the jump-off. Both horses are valuable stallions and Patrick Caron, the French chef d'equipe, decided that they should not be risked.

Michael Whitaker, who had a single error on Everest Midnight Madness in the jump-off class, rode Uriel's Foal to victory in the Speed Stakes.

HICKSTEAD NATIONS CUP MEETING (Sussex): Homepride Sauces International Stakes: 1 Kilbaha (Capt J Ledingham, Irl) clear, 50.74sec; 2 Diamond Exchange (J Chesney, Irl) 4 faults, 42.65; 3 San Patrignano Nonix (M Robert, Fr) 8 faults, 52.65. Homepride Speed Stakes: 1 Everest Uriel's Foal (M Whitaker, GB) 72.84sec; 2 Impulse (P Charles, Irl) 73.16; 3 The Mint (M McCourt, GB) 74.47.