Equestrianism: Max for Beerbaum

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LUDGER BEERBAUM, the Olympic gold medalist in Barcelona, rode Almox Ratina Z to a spectacular success in the Volvo World Cup qualifier at Olympia yesterday. It was their first major victory as a partnership.

Ratina, who carried the Dutch rider Piet Raymaker to a silver medal in Barcelona, was acquired soon after the Games when her conqueror, Classic Touch, was sold. She is some replacement, and yesterday proved this again.

Twelve of the 30 starters were clear to go into the jump-off, and John Whitaker, drawn first, carried most of the British fans' hopes. The great Milton had looked impeccable in the first round, but now hit the first fence. Their time of 35.08sec was fast but beatable.

The Swiss rider Willi Melliger, on Moet and Chandon Concorde, and Austria's Thomas Fruhmann, on Bockmanns Genius, jumped good clear rounds over the twisty track which suited few of the more powerful long-striding horses. However, Peter Charles, now riding for Ireland, overcame this disadvantage with Royal Chocolate.

This big grey Holstein, recently acquired from Finland, is Charles says, a pleasure to ride. Their smooth clearance in 36.3 was the round Beerbaum had to beat.

He seemed to ask Ratina the impossible, turning into mammoth spreads with barely a stride, but the mare responded brilliantly with some extraordinary, athletic leaps. 'She is excitable,' Beerbaum says, 'but I had an advantage here as she is so quick.'

He was winning his second Volvo car, and took himself to the top of the Western European league with 58 points. Britain's highest-placed rider, John Whitaker, is currently 21st. Beerbaum looks to have an outstanding chance at the World Cup finals in Gothenburg in April.

OLYMPIA CHAMPIONSHIP Volvo World Cup (Preliminary Round) 1 Almox Ratina Z (L Beerbaum, Ger) 0 faults, 32.78; 2 Royal Chocolate (P Charles, Irl) 0; 36.13; 3 Bockmann's Genius (T Fruhmann, Aut) 0, 36.78. Leading positions (after nine events): 1 Beerbaum, 58pts; 2 H Luther (Ger) 56; 3 C M de Irujo (Sp) 53; 4 Charles (Irl) 52. Modern Security Systems Holly Top Score: 1 Raspail (R- Y Bost, Fr) 1,540pts; 2 J J (D Bowen, GB) 1400, 47.87sec; 3 Ipididu (T Fruhmann, Aut) 1400pts, 51.58. Modern Security Systems Christmas Hamper: 1 Everest My Mesieur (M Whitaker, GB) 43.66; 2 Everest Major Wager (N Skelton, GB) 43.96; 3 John Blunt (R Tebbel, Ger) 44.70. Modern Security Systems Puissance: 1 Golo (R Tebbel, Ger); 2= Tommy (R Tebbel, Ger), Everest Percival (M Whitaker, GB), Robin (P Eriksson, Swe), Akai Sarcelle de Sisse (H Godignon, Fr), Almox Alex (L Beerbaum, Ger).

(Photograph omitted)