Equestrianism: Vantage recovers to make his point - When the going gets soft, horse and rider have to rise to the challenge of the occasion

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GEOFF LUCKETT rode Everest Vantage to win yesterday's Silk Cut Challenge here, despite having one fence down in both the opening round and the jump-off. The whole contest failed to produce a single clear round, mainly because the ground in the international arena had become soft after several days of rain, .

'Vantage doesn't like soft going,' Luckett said, but the horse performed on it better than his opponents. Joe Turi and the stallion, Vital, first to go in the jump-off between three horses, had two fences down and finished second.

Luckett has had a frustrating season with Vantage, who had to miss June's Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead because of a virus. 'He's just coming back to his best,' Luckett said of the horse, who will be his main hope in Sunday's Derby assuming that he qualifies in today's Derby Trial.

David Bowen had the distinction of defeating the Olympic champion, Germany's Ludger Beerbaum, when he won the later Silk Cut Challenge on Delsey. He is aiming for a hat-trick in Saturday's Speed Derby with Delsey, who has won the contest for the last two years.

Delsey was not worried about the soft ground when he went clear over the seven fences in this unusual contest, which was judged on time with three seconds added for each error. The fences were much bigger than for a normal speed contest and the three-second penalty was low, encouraging riders to sacrifice accuracy for speed.

SILK CUT DERBY MEETING (Hickstead, Sussex): Silk Cut Tankard: 1 Everest Vantage (G Luckett, GB) 4 faults, 66.95secs; 2 Vital (J Turi, GB) 8, 57.35; 3 Foxendale (R Barton) 16, 67.95. Silk Cut Challenge: 1 Delsey (D Bowen, GB) clear, 49.86; 2 Almox Athletico (L Beerbaum, Ger) clear, 51.22; 3 Everest Cloudchase (G Luckett, GB) clear, 52.45.

(Photograph omitted)