EQUESTRIANISM; Ward leaves in disgrace

McLAIN WARD, the 23-year-old US show jumper has left the Aachen International Horse Show in disgrace after the discovery of several pointed plastic pins underneath the boot worn on a leg of his 12-year-old grey gelding, Benetton. They were presumed to have been placed there so that the horse would wish to avoid hitting a fence.

No injury could be found but, as this was an "illegal manipulation", Ward was expelled from the show. This was the second scandal involving his family. McLain's father, Barney Ward, was recently released from prison having been convicted for his part in an insurance fraud in which horses were killed.

British riders were shocked by the news concerning McLain. "The worst thing is people will think it happens all the time and it doesn't," John Whitaker said. "I've never heard of it before."

Meanwhile Whitaker and his new mount, Virtual Village Flower, had been defeated by a mere 0.19sec when finishing runner-up to the world champions, Rodrigo Pessoa and Gandini Lianos, for the Preis von Europa

British supporters could scarcely have been much happier if Whitaker had won, for the performance proved that he now has a wonderful new partner in the 11-year-old mare with whom he teamed up last month. Flower's Dutch owner, Roseanne Coolen, was as delighted as any of them.

Coolen has "fifty something" horses in various stables around Europe. Her two favourites - and the first she bought when they were acquired together from Jan Tops five years ago - are Heyman and Flower who are both with Whitaker. "He is the best in the world by far. He needed the chance to have some younger horses," she said of the Yorkshireman.

Heyman was Whitaker's mount at the World Equestrian Games last year, but it looks as though Flower will surpass him. The mare will probably have another chance to prove her worth in tomorrow's Nations Cup.

Results, Digest, page 25

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