Equestrianism: Whitaker and Skelton slip: British challenge fades

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BOTH Michael Whitaker and Nick Skelton had looked on course for a British victory in yesterday's contest for the Premio Grand Soleil on the second day of the Rome Horse Show until both their horses hit the sixth of 11 fences. Whitaker went on to achieve by far the fastest time, on Everest My Mesieur, whereas Skelton dropped down a gear with Limited Edition whom he had ridden to victory here late on Saturday.

The crowds were delighted to applaud a home victory by Roberto Arioldi on Loro Piana Double Take, who was ridden for New Zealand by Mark Todd in the 1992 Olympics. Warren Clarke, who had a slow clear round for 12th place on Benjumin, was best of the British.

Clarke therefore has another chance to compete in the Nations Cup. He was part of the British team who finished second here last year, when Benjumin had just one mistake in each of the two rounds.

Ronnie Massarella waited until after yesterday's final contest before naming his team for today's big clash between 10 nations. Skelton will go first for Britain on Everest Dollar Girl, followed by John Popely on Bluebird, Clarke on Benjumin and Whitaker on Monsanta. Dollar Girl and Monsanta were rested yesterday for the Nations Cup, while the three younger Britons attempted to earn a place on the team.

In the end Massarella had an easy decision. Clarke was an automatic choice. Matthew Lanni had four fences down when Secret Pride lowered both elements of the two doubles, leaving Popely to secure the final place after two errors on Bluebird.

ROME HORSE SHOW: Premio Grand Soleil: 1 Loro Piana Double Take (R Arioldi, It) clear, 56.90sec; 2 San Patrignano Joli Coeur (F Sloothaak, Ger) clear, 57.21; 3 Escado (S Lauber, Swit), clear, 57.65. GB: 12 Benjumin (W Clarke), clear, 75.37; 18 Everest My Mesieur (M Whitaker) 4 faults, 54.93; 22 Everest Limited Edition (N Skelton) 4 flts, 67.50. Trofeo Il Tempo: 1 Adelfos (M Fuchs, Swit) clear, 30.80; 2 Souvien-Toi (R-Y Bost, Fr) clear, 32.01; 3 Gigolo (G Govoni, It) clear, 32.31. Premio Comune di Roma (Saturday): 1 Everest Limited Edition (N Skelton, GB) clear, 25.42; 2 Loro Piana Special Envoy (R Pessoa, Bra) clear, 26.37; 3 Lamborghini (H Weinberg, Ger) clear, 27.11.