EQUESTRIANISM: Pessoa's fluency earns first spurs

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The Independent Online
RODRIGO PESSOA gave his older rivals yet another lesson in superb horsemanship here yesterday evening, when he rode Gandini Baloubet du Rouet to win the first leg of the World Cup final.

The 26-year-old Brazilian, who won both the World Cup and the world championship last year, jumped with fluency and spot-on accuracy in this opening speed contest, in which he was clear in the fastest time. He finished more than two seconds ahead of Switzerland's Bat Mandli on Pozitano, with Germany's Ludger Beerbaum close behind on Ratina.

The Whitaker brothers, who are the only British representatives, got off to a disappointing start, with Michael incurring the four-second penalty for one fence down on Virtual Village Ashley and John having eight seconds to add on Grannusch.

Ashley, who had struggled to clear the double of spreads at fence 11, eventually made his only error at the last of the 14 obstacles and is now in 15th place. The 20-year-old Grannusch took off too early at the 11th and clobbered the first part. He also lowered the first element of the double at fence 13, leaving the elder Whitaker in 23rd place.

Lesley McNaught, who was born in Britain but rides for Switzerland, had been deceptively fast when second to go on Dulf and she was still up with the leaders in fourth place when the speed contest was over.

The World Cup continues with this evening's jump-off class, followed by the final two-round contest on Sunday. The Whitakers will have their work cut out to catch Pessoa and the stallion with whom he was overall winner last year.

WORLD CUP FINAL (Gothenburg): First leg: 1 Gandini Baloubet du Rouet (R Possoa, Br) 66.32; 2 Pozitano (B Mandli, Swit) 68.39; 3 Ratina (L Beerbaum, Ger) 69.30; 4 Dulf (L McNaught, Swit) 70.19; 5 Sprehe Stella (M Michaels- Beerbaum, Ger) 70.98; 6 Cruising (T Coyle, Irl) 71.47. GB: 15 Virtual Village Ashley (M Whitaker) 74.46; 23 Virtual Village Grannusch (J Whitaker) 76.41.