Equestrianism: Skelton hits the heights

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The Independent Online
By Genevieve Murphy

NICK SKELTON and Virtual Village Hopes are High added to their burgeoning reputation by winning the du Maurier Grand Prix on the final day of the Spruce Meadows Masters Tournament at Calgary in Canada. The contest carries the world's richest showjumping prize money, with nearly pounds 100,000 going to the winner.

Geoff Billington, who was runner-up on It's Otto, and John Whitaker, who finished fifth on Heyman, made this contest a great morale-booster for the British who had finished back in sixth place in the previous day's Nations Cup. Originally owned by David Broome, Hopes are High has been sold to Lord and Lady Harris. This puts an end to fears that the horse might be sold abroad and it means that Skelton will keep the ride. The Calgary victory was the third grand prix success for the partnership, who also won in Dublin and Gijon.

While the British show jumpers have discovered a new-found optimism, the three-day event squad continues to be plagued by injuries. Dutch Treat, the mount of Anne-Marie Evans, cracked a splint bone during training and has become the latest horse to drop out of contention for the World Games. Peta Beckett will fill the vacant place on the squad with Watermark III.

Selection of the dressage team is now complete. Ferdi Eilberg and Sandy Phillips will join Richard Davison and Emile Faurie, who had been nominated in July.

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