EQUESTRIANISM: Rules change leaves the field to Germany

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DESPITE THE small and mostly mediocre field of 20 for Saturday's Kerrygold World Cup contest, Lutz Gripshover had to pull out all the stops in a four-horse jump-off to secure victory on Warren 004.

The 27-year-old German rider defeated his compatriot, Ralf Schneider, on Chopin 045, and Ireland's Peter Charles on the able but highly-strung mare, Traxdata Amber du Montois, from whom he is coaxing an increasingly good tune. Charles' next outing, however, is likely to be to hospital where he is to have an operation on his injured left ankle.

Gripshover, the German victor on Saturday, was participating in the World Cup for the first time. Though he was naturally happy with the result, he remained united with fellow riders in his condemnation of the new rules. These required them all to qualify here on Friday in a competition which was decided on time in the opening round.

Noel C Duggan, whose family created the Irish venue which they still run, was equally displeased with the formula which annihilated all nine British riders in the "pre-qualifier" in which five of them filled the 22nd to 26th places.

"I would have loved to have 25 in the World Cup class," Duggan said yesterday. This wish was, however, blocked by the foreign judge (Britain's Philip Billington) and the International Equestrian Federation who were responsible for devising the new rules.

"They've taken a sledgehammer to break a glass," Duggan said of the federation's bureaucrats who have tried (but failed) to devise a more exciting format. "The British have been our best and most constant supporters and this is the first time in twenty years that there has been no Briton in the prizegiving."

Gripshover was the long-time leader in yesterday's O'Callaghan Properties Speed and Handiness contest - until the talented 19-year-old Irishman, Cian O'Connor, went ahead by 1.04sec on the nine-year-old German-bred Lombardo.

This was O'Connor's second international victory (his first was achieved here on Saturday), but the Irish selectors must already have spotted him as a likely star of the future.

Results, Digest, page 9