Equestrianism: Pride after a fall for Whitaker

John Whitaker reckoned that he had made the mistake which kept Grannusch out of the jump-off for Saturday's King George V Gold Cup, which was won by his friend and Olympic team-mate, Nick Skelton. But yesterday, on the closing day of the Royal International Horse Show, it was Whitaker who had the last word.

Again riding Grannusch, who has belied his 17 years by winning a class at every show for six consecutive weeks, Whitaker gave the horse a wonderful ride in the jump-off. "He went at a nice pace and kept it up," Whitaker said with typical understatement after beating Martin Lucas on Senator Lannegan and Damian Charles on Shurlands Viking. Apart from a nasty fall 12 days ago, Whitaker has had a tremendously successful couple of weeks as he prepares to leave for the Olympic Games on Wednesday.

Skelton also leaves on a good note after his two superb rounds on the mare Cathleen, which gave him his third King's Cup victory. Martin Lucas was the runner-up in that contest as well with Senator Lannegan, another sprightly 17-year-old and the former mount of David Broome, who stood one place ahead of William Funnell on Comex.

This was Skelton's first visit to Hickstead for more than two years, but he is already thinking of coming back with Cathleen for next month's Silk Cup Derby. The placid 10-year-old mare has proved well-suited to the spacious international arena here, where the going is normally perfect.

There is no wish to denigrate Marion Hughes' achievement in winning the Queen Elizabeth II Cup for the second year running, but it has to be said that few of the Irish rider's opponents looked up to their task.

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