Equestrianism; Smith horses back in shape

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The Independent Online
ROBERT SMITH, who had to miss the Swiss Nations' Cup Show at St Gallen last weekend, proved the well-being of his horses yesterday when filling the top two places in the International Trial at the Suffolk County Show in Ipswich.

Smith won on the mare Almare, who has now recovered from the infection which prevented her journey to Switzerland, and finished second on Senator For the Best.

Smith, who will ride the same two horses in today's more valuable European Championship Team Trial, was third into the 11-horse jump-off yesterday with Almare - a substitute entry for Tess Hanauer, who is recovering from a colic operation.

In the confusion, the 12-year-old was announced as Senator For the Best, also a bright bay, and spectators may still be under the illusion that the latter horse (who was just 1.02sec slower) was the victor.

Almare, formerly ridden by Tim Brown and Andrew Saywell, moved into Smith's yard in early May, and she has been quick to establish a good rapport with her new rider. "She's very genuine," said Smith, who feels that the mare is ready to tackle the more demanding courses of an overseas show.

Smith had nothing to fear from Veronique Whitaker, who finished third with a slower clear round on the chestnut Semilly yesterday. However, Billy Twomey, who has been a stable jockey for Michael Whitaker for the last three years, posed a definite threat when recording the fastest time.

Twomey, a 22-year-old Irishman, was riding Virtual Villaye Hilton, with whom Whitaker won the first of the European Championship team trials at Windsor last month. The horse was jumping superbly until tripping coming into the penultimate jump-off fence, where he made his only mistake.

Whitaker, who has travelled to Italy for the Nations' Cup show in Modena, will be riding Hilton himself on some of his future trips abroad, but Twomey, who is developing into one of the most stylish riders on the circuit under Whitaker's guidance - "Michael helps me all the time," he said - proved an able deputy yesterday.

Despite a torrential downpour in the morning, the going in Suffolk's Grand Ring remained excellent - which is the main reason why it has been chosen to stage a team trial for the second consecutive year. This time, however, it will happen in the absence of the top five British riders (the Whitaker brothers, Nick Skelton, Geoff Billington and Di Lampard), who are all in Modena, where they can earn team trial points in the Nations' Cup.

SUFFOLK COUNTY SHOW (Ipswich): International Trial: 1 Almare (R Smith) clear, 45.40sec; 2 Senator For the Best (R Smith) clear, 46.42; 3 Semilly (V Whitaker) clear, 51.26. Suffolk Stakes: 1 Millbrook (J Renwick) clear, 65.05; 2 Lauren II (J Popely) clear, 67.65; 3 Virtual Village Hilton (B Twomey) clear, 72.28.

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