Equestrianism: Whitaker at the double

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The Independent Online
MICHAEL WHITAKER had his second success at the Olympia Show Jumping Championships yesterday when he rode the consistent Everest My Messieur to victory in the Mistletoe Stakes. Having jumped clear over the 'power' section of the course, the 14-year-old chestnut zipped round the remaining 'speed' section in a time which proved unbeatable.

Whitaker had a long wait before his prize was in safe keeping. Roger-Yves Bost, who has already had two wins here, threatened to take another first prize home to France. But this time, riding President Papillon, he finished runner-up, 1.55 seconds behind the winner and a mere 0.04sec ahead of Robert Smith, who finished third on Lucilla.

Nick Skelton had looked even more ominous than Bost until Everest Major Wager slipped and fell while making a sharp turn to the final fence. 'As soon as you land, you've got to turn,' Whitaker said. 'You've no chance to get the horse balanced when that sort of thing happens, Nick would have beaten me otherwise.'

My Messieur has won over 50 classes in his three years with Whitaker. 'He gets a little bit scared if he jumps big courses all the time, so you have to build him up to it,' Whitaker said. He did just that at Wembley in October when winning the Derby at The Horse of the Year Show, which was the horse's last contest in Britain.

Skelton has been frustratingly close to victory at Olympia, without yet landing a winning prize. He has twice been runner-up to Bost and the French stallion, Raspail - first on Wednesday with Major Wager and again yesterday, in the Modern Security Christmas Pudding Stakes, on Everest Florida.

After Major Wager's fall in the Mistletoe Stakes, Skelton seemed to have made the breakthrough for a first victory in the Christmas Carol Stakes. But, having jumped a smooth and swift clear jump-off round to take the lead on Limited Edition, Skelton was left to watch the next (and last) rider defeat him. The victor was Austria's Thomas Fruhmann on Albertino, who finished just 0.27sec ahead.

Three brave riders - Sweden's Peter Eriksson and two Britons, Joe Turi and Geoff Billington - dispensed with their saddles to jump five rounds in the Modern Security Systems Bareback Puissance. All three were clear in the final jump-off, when the big wall stood at 6ft 8ins, to share first place.

OLYMPIA SHOW JUMPING CHAMPIONSHIPS: Mistletoe Stakes: 1 Everest My Messieur (M Whitaker, GB) clear, 20.19sec; 2 President Papillon (R-Y Bost, Fr) 21.74; 3 Lucilla (R Smith, GB) 21.78. Modern Security Christmas Pudding Stakes: 1 Raspail (R-Y Bost, Fr) 47.82secs; 2 Everest Florida (N Skelton, GB) 48.96; 3 Home James (M Michaels, US) 51.28. Ridden Mountain and Moorland Championship: Lonsdale Lucky Lady (L Briant); Reserve: Langfield Canth (C Farnaby). Christmas Carol Stakes: 1 Albertino (T Fruhmann, Aut) clear 29.22; 2 Everest Limited Edition (N Skelton, GB) clear 29.49; 3 Akai Sarcelle de Sisse (H Godignon, Fr), clear 31.09. Modern Security Systems Bareback Puissance: 1= Robin Z (P Eriksson, Swe), Ever if Ever (J Turi, GB), Alonso (G Billington, GB) clear in fifth round.

(Photograph omitted)