EQUESTRIANISM: Skelton and Fisher face final hurdle

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Nick Skelton and James Fisher will be anxious to improve their places in the Western European League of the Volvo World Cup when they join John and Michael Whitaker for today's start of the Paris Horse Show.

The Whitaker brothers and Geoff Billington have already qualified for next month's World Cup final in Gothenburg. Skelton and Fisher wait to see if they are to be included among the select band of 19 qualified riders from Western Europe, whose names will be known on Sunday.

For qualification purposes, it would be enough for Skelton to retain his 17th place and for Fisher to stay in 19th. But if either fails to score a point, there are plenty of others who could edge ahead. Those within range include the Swiss national champion, Markus Fuchs, and Ireland's Eddie Macken, who won the Zurich Grand Prix last weekend with his new mount, Sissi.

Skelton will be riding the great mare, Everest Dollar Girl, in Sunday's last World Cup qualifier of the season. All his 39 points were scored with this mare, who won at Millstreet in Ireland last November, before finishing fifth in Dortmund and 10th in 's-Hertogenbosch this month.

Fisher will be on another mare, Bowriver Queen, with whom he collected his first-ever prize of a car when winning in Geneva last December. He has never contested the World Cup final before, but he intends to make use of his place if he gets through on Sunday. If Skelton also makes it, the British contingent in the final will be the biggest since 1991.