Equestrianism: Wembley welcomes the Whitaker rivalry

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The Independent Online
MICHAEL WHITAKER heads for this week's Horse of the Year Show at Wembley Arena as the new leader on the world rankings for show jumping. But he is not likely to lose his Yorkshire sense of perspective through overtaking his elder brother, John. 'It feels good to be top of the rankings, but you don't get any extra money for it,' Michael said.

This has nevertheless been the most remunerative year ever for the younger Whitaker, who will be looking to collect a substantial slice of the pounds 117,850 on offer for show jumping when the international classes begin tomorrow.

He will be riding three horses: Everest My Mesieur, Lifestyle, the mare, and Twostep, the nine-year- old who is one of his two most exciting prospects. The other, Midnight Madness, has already gone out to grass for a few months' rest. Whitaker had been debating between Twostep and Monsanta for the major Wembley contests. Twostep was eventually chosen to make his first appearance there, mainly because Monsanta finds the arena too cramped.

Michael Whitaker is well aware that his brother, John, Nick Skelton and Germany's Franke Sloothaak, winner of the German Masters in Bremen on Sunday, will be three of the toughest competitors this week. John is still without the injured Everest Milton, who also missed Wembley last year. That did not stop John from becoming the leading rider for the fourth time in five years. He returns with two of last year's winners, Grannusch and Hopscotch, plus Roddy's Revenge. Grannusch went lame again last week and it was only yesterday that John Whitaker decided to take him.

The show's richest prize will be the Nissan Terrano II, worth pounds 15,175, that goes to the winner of the Jump and Drive final on Saturday night. It involves riding over a short jumping course, then driving a Terrano through an obstacle course. The format may be far removed from classical show jumping, but there will still be fierce competition because of the prize.