Equestrianism: Smith's Diamond set to sparkle

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The Independent Online
ROBERT SMITH has another chance to demonstrate that he has a potential star in his stable when he rides Senator Diamond Touch at the Millstreet World Cup show in County Cork, Ireland, this weekend.

The eight-year-old Irish-bred horse was bought by Smith about five months ago on the recommendation of Malcolm Pyrah, the new lottery-funded team trainer. "He started winning straightaway," Smith said of the horse whose recent international form includes two victories - at Wembley in early October and at Zuidlaren in The Netherlands on Sunday.

The new World Cup rules will oblige riders to compete in a qualifying competition today, from which the top 20 go forward to tomorrow's World Cup class. Having to "qualify for the qualifier" has brought its own problems, notably in a boycott by the top 25 riders in the world rankings of shows that are deemed to have insufficient prize money. The Millstreet fixture is one of them.

The boycott affects three Britons: John Whitaker (6th in the rankings), his brother Michael (19th) and Geoff Billington (24th). Michael Whitaker could have done without it, since he wanted to compete at the Irish venue. The other two will be jumping in Vienna. Despite their absence (and that of Nick Skelton, who had to pull out when breaking his collar-bone last week) the 15-strong British contingent includes four from the World Class Performance squad: Smith, Andrew Davies, Guy Goosen and Tim Stockdale.

Richard Davenport, who has caught the eye of Pyrah and others this year, is also competing. This will be the first World Cup show for the 19-year- old son of the former show jumper Jean Davenport (winner of the Queen Elizabeth II Cup in 1974 and 1975) and he is hoping to be among the 20 who reach tomorrow's big class.

Davenport's two mounts, Guy du Moulin and Grand Marnier, are both nine- year-olds who arrived at his Cheshire base in May, having been bought by Martin Dawes from the Dutch rider and dealer Jan Tops. They each won a class in a recent show at Towerlands, where Davenport was the best of the three who gained qualification for next month's Olympia Show Jumping Championships.

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