Equestrianism: Splaine's clear round earns huge ovation

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ROBERT SPLAINE earned his standing ovation at the Millstreet World Cup show last night, when completing a wonderfully audacious clear round to win the Dairygold Irish Grand Prix on Coolcorran Cool Diamond by the thrillingly small margin of 0.04 seconds.

The local County Cork rider defeated Austria's Anton Martin Bauer on Remus Innovation - with another native of Cork, Michael Whitaker's stable- jockey Billy Twomey, filling third place on Conquest II. Tim Stockdale was the best of the British, finishing a close fourth with two fine clear rounds on the part-Shire mare Traxdata Wiston Bridget.

Despite the small and mostly mediocre field of 20 for Saturday's Kerrygold World Cup contest, Lutz Gripshover had to pull out all the stops in a four-horse jump-off to secure victory on Warren 004. The German defeated his compatriot, Ralf Schneider, on Chopin 045, and Ireland's Peter Charles on the able but highly-strung mare, Traxdata Amber du Montois. Charles' next outing, however, is likely to be to hospital where he is to have an operation on his injured left ankle.

Gripshover was participating in the World Cup for the first time. Though naturally happy with the result, he remained united with fellow riders in his condemnation of the new rules. These required them all to qualify here on Friday in a competition which was decided on time in the opening round.

Noel C Duggan, whose family created the Irish venue which they still run, was equally displeased with the formula which annihilated all nine British riders in the "pre-qualifier" in which five of them filled the 22nd to 26th places.

"I would have loved to have 25 in the World Cup class," Duggan said yesterday. This wish was, however, blocked by the foreign judge (Britain's Philip Billington) and the International Equestrian Federation. Duggan said: "The British have been our most constant supporters and this is the first time in 20 years there has been no Briton in the prizegiving."

Gripshover led yesterday's Speed and Handiness contest until the talented 19-year-old Irishman, Cian O'Connor, went ahead by 1.04sec on Lombardo.

Results, Digest, page 9