Equestrianism: Sloothaak seeks to build on early gains: Olympia Championships

Click to follow
The Independent Online
FRANKE SLOOTHAAK will not only be aiming for a large slice of the pounds 165,000 prize-money when the Olympia Show Jumping Championships begin their five-day run today. The German rider also has his eye on the reward of pounds 408,000 on offer to anyone who wins the four Volvo World Cup qualifiers in the Grand Slam series.

Sloothaak won the first of these, in Berlin last month, on the eight- year-old grey mare, San Patrignano Dorina, who will be one of his three mounts for the London show. Either Dorina or the stallion, Corrado, would give him a strong hand when the second contest in the World Cup Grand Slam series takes place at the start of Saturday afternoon's programme at Olympia.

If Sloothaak misses the jackpot there are other substantial prizes to go for: pounds 204,000 for winning three in the series, pounds 81,600 for two consecutive victories (which he could collect on Saturday) and pounds 40,800 for winning any two.

As host of Britain's only World Cup qualifier, Olympia has a high- class list of 17 overseas riders. It includes the German Olympic champion, Ludger Beerbaum, and Switzerland's Willi Melliger who is the holder of the European title. British- born Lesley McNaught-Mandli, a member of the winning Swiss team at last year's European Championships, will also be in contention.

Michael and John Whitaker, ranked No 1 and No 2 in the world, will be among the 18 home competitors. So will Nick Skelton, who was the leading rider in Toronto last month. His mounts include the mare Everest Dollar Girl, whose winnings of pounds 141,708 for the 12 months to 30 November put her top of the British rankings.

David Broome, winner of Ireland's World Cup qualifier in Millstreet at the end of October, makes his 22nd appearance. The durable 54-year-old Welshman is the only rider to have competed in all 21 of the previous Olympia Championships.

The newcomers include John Popely, 25. Popely made a big impression on the recent North American tour where he gained points in all three World Cup qualifiers, finishing seventh in Washington, fourth in New York and equal 12th in Toronto.

Popely's mount in all three contests was the Irish-bred eight-year- old Blue Bird, who will again be his partner for Saturday's contest.