Equestrianism: Whitaker beats the clock in grand finale on Grannusch: Skelton misses the main prize on Dollar Girl at the Horse of the Year Show but shows the potential of Showtime

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JOHN WHITAKER'S talents were again used with telling effect when he rode Everest Grannusch to win last night's Toggi Grand Prix, the closing contest of the Horse of the Year Show here.

The time to beat had been set by Warren Clarke, who opened the nine-horse jump-off on Benjumin. He took all the short options on the grey gelding, who had cleared 7ft 4in when winning the puissance two days earlier.

'Warren was the only one I watched and he made the course look easy,' Whitaker said, 'but it wasn't easy to ride.' Whitaker beat the 24-year-old Lancastrian by only a split-second to achieve his first Grand Prix victory at this show. Grannusch, a doubtful starter a week earlier because of foot problems, also won last Thursday's Leading Show Jumper of the Year title.

Nick Skelton, who was third with one mistake on Dollar Girl in the fastest time of all, had earlier collected pounds 3,000 of his sponsor's prize-money when winning the Everest Championship on Showtime. The eight-year-old mare could prove the best he has ever ridden.

'She's got a big stride and she's really careful,' Skelton said of the mare, who was bought two years ago. 'Because she's so careful, I need to give her time. If she had a crash now, it would knock her back six months.'

Skelton had a masterly round, turning corners sharply enough to record a fast time, but never asking Showtime for undue effort. Alison Bradley, the winner of two contests here, was the rider who worried Skelton most, finishing 0.24sec behind him.

Michael Whitaker's challenge petered out when Everest Monsanta nipped out to the right at the second jump-off fence, leaving Paul Sutton, the only other rider to jump clear, to fill third place on Wessex Fields of Athenry.

Skelton has already agreed to compete in two of the three shows that make up the North American autumn circuit this year. The other members of the British team will be announced today, but Bradley will not be among them. She is adamant that Charles and Dorothy Sibcy's Endeavour must now take a well-earned rest.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 29