Equestrianism: Madness proves a master

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MICHAEL WHITAKER rounded off his highly successful Nations Cup meeting with two victories yesterday: the British Grand Prix, on Everest Midnight Madness, and the Homepride Speed Grand Prix, on Uriel's Foal. His winnings for the two contests amounted to pounds 14,250.

The Whitaker brothers had excelled themselves on Saturday, with Michael, on Midnight Madness, and John, on Everest Milton, contributing double clear rounds to the British team victory in the Nations Cup.

Milton had twisted his off foreleg and was slightly lame after his second round, so the grey did not contest yesterday's Grand Prix. But there were no such problems for Midnight Madness, who looked eager to get on with his work as he tackled another big course.

'He's improved every time he's jumped here; the last round was best of all,' Whitaker said of the bay gelding's performance in the Grand Prix jump-off. 'He's usually better when I ask a few more questions - it makes him concentrate.'

The questions included some sharp turns, jumping a couple of fences on oblique angles and taking a flier at the last. Midnight Madness, who has won about pounds 150,000 in his year with Whitaker, had been second of eight to jump-off and all those who followed made mistakes while chasing his time. Emile Hendrix, first to go on Andalou Arabian, was the eventual runner-up with the only other clear round.

Ludger Beerbaum, Germany's Olympic champion, had looked threatening as he set off in determined pursuit on Almox Grand Plaisir. But, though his time was 1.47sec faster, it was at the expense of two fences down.

John Whitaker, riding Hopscotch in place of the injured Milton, dropped out with two errors in the opening round. David Broome had withdrawn Lannegan before the Grand Prix because the horse has a swollen foreleg. Warren Clarke also had to withdraw when his grey partner, Benjumin, had an attack of colic - thus denying the 23- year-old rider an opportunity to prove his worth in front of the selectors and a big home crowd.

HICKSTEAD NATIONS CUP MEETING (Sussex): Homepride British Grand Prix: 1 Everest Midnight Madness (M Whitaker, GB) clear, 44.27sec; 2 Andalou Arabian (E Hendrix, Neth) clear, 48.85; 3 Quat'Sous (E Couperie, Fr) 4 faults, 47.22. Homepride Speed Grand Prix: 1 Everest Uriel's Foal (M Whitaker, GB) 77.07sec; 2 Satoni d'Araval (P Rozier, Fr) 77.49; 3 Quartzy II (E Couperie, Fr) 79.75. Nations Cup: 1 Great Britain, 8 faults; 2= Netherlands and Germany, 20; 4 Ireland, 48; 5 Belgium 51.75. Standings for Nations Cup Trophy: 1 GB 16pts; 2 Germany 9.5; 3 Netherlands 6.5.