Equestrianism: Virtual Village up to speed

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The Independent Online
Michael Whitaker kept the family name in a prominent position when he gained his fourth victory of the Horse of the Year Show (and his second on Virtual Village Twostep) in yesterday's Speed Horse of the Year.

"There were a lot of options on the course, but I decided to take the shortest way everywhere," Whitaker said, after defeating William Funnell (who also went the way of the bold on Comex) by just 0.2sec.

Andrew Davies, winner of the earlier Woodhouse Venue of Legends Stakes, is still disenchanted with show jumping after his bitter disappointment at losing the ride on Hopes are High. Formerly owned by David Broome, the horse is now the mount of Nick Skelton and one of the favourites for the World Equestrian Games, which open in Rome on Wednesday.

When Davies won on Miniature Quickstep yesterday, he defeated Skelton on Giselle II in the process. "It's always good to beat someone like Nick, but I don't bear him any grudge," the 24-year-old Davies said.

He did, however, feel badly let down and was "within a millimetre of giving up altogether" when Broome rang him up out of the blue to say that the horse was being passed on to Skelton. Hopes are High has since been sold to Lord and Lady Harris.

Laura Stephenson won the Paul Fabrications Leading Junior Show Jumper of the Year on her palomino pony, Gold Harvest, who was last of four into the jump-off when defeating Stuart Neads on My Mystic Lad by a comfortable 6.27sec.

The competition was marred by some bad riding and by a nasty fall for the talented Ben Maher, a member of the winning team in the last two Pony European Show Jumping Championships. He left the arena by stretcher after Dusty Boy put in an abrupt stop at the fifth fence - but, happily, he was not seriously injured.