Equestrianism: Whitaker ascends to top level

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The Independent Online
John Whitaker and nine-year-old Hunter's Level gained their fifth international victory, and their second at the Monterrey International Horse Show, in yesterday's Banorte Friendship Trophy at the Club Hipico la Silla.

The chestnut gelding, who was bred in Ireland, is proving a valuable member of Whitaker's string since he began to be asked some serious questions this year. His fast clear round was only once under threat in a field of 43 horses - and that was when Whitaker's younger brother, Michael set off in serious pursuit on seven-year-old Dinky Toy.

Michael was faster (by 0.58sec) but he had a single error to finish eighth leaving two Mexicans, Alberto Michan and Gerardo Tazzer, to fill second and third places with 0.01sec between them.

Brazil's Rodrigo Pessoa, who won here on Wednesday, took a nasty-looking fall with Loro Piana Special Envoy who missed his stride at a spread fence and crashed through it. Pessoa was found to have no broken bones when X-rayed at the veterinary centre here, but he is bound to be stiff and sore this morning. Nick Skelton also had a fall and his mount, the stallion Quick Star, required stitches between his front legs where he had caught himself with a hind stud. The horse will be sidelined for the rest of the show, leaving Skelton with only Cathleen III.

Hugo Simon had been in devastating form on the first two days of the meeting, winning with Apricot D on Wednesday and then taking a daredevil gallop with E.T. to win Thursday's big class for the Ford Intercontinental Cup.

The 54-year-old Austrian, who was first to go in the jump-off for the Ford prize, demolished his opponents before they had even entered the arena. Jos Lansink of the Netherlands made a spirited attempt to catch him on Visa Aldatus, finishing 1.44sec adrift for second.

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