Equestrianism: McNaught sounds all clear

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The Independent Online
LESLEY McNAUGHT, a former British rider, contributed to a convincing Swiss victory in the Nations' Cup at the Aachen International Horse Show yesterday, when she rode Dulf to the only double clear round of the competition. The team won convincingly, with a two-round total of eight faults, followed by Germany (20) and Britain (28).

The British effort had started with a clear round from Michael Whitaker on Virtual Village Ashley. However, It's Otto then deposited Geoff Billington on the ground when he stopped at the third element of the treble, fence four, and was retired.

Di Lampard then disappointed with 12 faults on Abbervail Dream, before John Whitaker restored some British pride on his new mount, Virtual Village Flower. The mare, who was eager to attack the fences, was clear coming into the last of the 12 fences where she made her only mistake. "That was my own fault, I pushed a bit too much to the last," Whitaker said.

After the first round, Britain were lying equal sixth with Ireland. When they reappeared, Ashley had a single error coming out of the difficult treble, It's Otto refused to go anywhere near it and was again retired, Abbervail Dream had two errors, and Flower jumped clear.

Though pleased with the two Whitaker horses the British team manager, Ronnie Massarella, was disappointed in the other two - especially It's Otto: "The treble was difficult, but that's what we have to jump."

Abbervail Dream jumped this combination clear both times, but was rather too fresh and unsettled. "He's too hot, he needs to settle," Lampard said.

At least John Whitaker and Flower proved themselves to be a powerful new combination. "There have been doubts about her scope, but today was a good test," Whitaker said. "She is a cross between Grannusch and Gammon, a bit hot but very careful. She suits me."

The Swiss team of McNaught, Markus Fuchs, Beat Mandli and Willi Melliger will be the same for the European Championships at Hickstead in August. Their horses include Melliger's Calvaro V and Nick Skelton's former mount, Tinka's Boy, who is now ridden by Fuchs.