Equestrianism: Milton takes a bow: Volvo World Cup final

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The Independent Online
EVEREST MILTON will be competing in his last Volvo World Cup final when John Whitaker rides the 17-year-old at 's Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands this weekend. Whitaker has not ruled out the idea of partnering the venerable superstar at the World Equestrian Games this summer, but he maintains that this will be the horse's last chance to reclaim the World Cup, which he won in 1990 and 1991.

The Dutch meeting begins in low key today, with optional warm- up classes. Tomorrow evening, when the battle begins in earnest, Whitaker will be riding Grannusch in the speed contest, which is the first leg of the World Cup final. Milton will be saved for Friday evening's second leg and Sunday's finale.

Whitaker employed exactly the same tactics, on the same two horses, when he was runner-up in Gothenburg last year. On that occasion, he was defeated by Germany's Olympic champion, Ludger Beerbaum, on the mare Almox Ratina.

Beerbaum should be less of a threat this year because Ratina, who is being kept under wraps for the summer's World Equestrian Games, is not competing. But there are other formidable opponents, notably the Dutchman Jos Lansink and Germany's Franke Sloothaak. Lansink won a record five World Cup qualifiers during the season to head the European League with by far the highest number of points ever scored.

Michael Whitaker is also well fancied. He will probably ride Everest Midnight Madness, winner of the individual bronze medal in last year's European Championships, in all three legs. But he does have a wonderful back-up in Twostep, with whom he won the World Cup qualifier at Olympia last December.

Nick Skelton, the third Briton, had intended to ride Major Wager until the horse was injured in Paris last month. He now relies on Limited Edition, who has not jumped in a single class since Olympia.