Equestrianism: Whitaker has edge over Dutchmen

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The Independent Online
Although he is resting his top two horses, Virtual Village Welham and Grannusch, John Whitaker still won yesterday's Land Rover Great Park Stakes on the third day of the Royal Windsor Horse Show.

This time Whitaker was riding the Hungarian-bred grey stallion Randi, who sped round clear to defeat two Dutchmen: Bert Romp on Burg's Mr Blue and Wout Jan van der Schans on Goldenbridge. Robert Smith was fourth on Senator For the Best, who was just 0.1sec slower than the horse above him.

Since time was decisive in the opening round, Whitaker reckoned that the course was big. "I don't think the average speed horse would have been up to it," he said. "Randi is different, he's capable of jumping in a grand prix and he's very careful."

At home in his native Hungary, Randi had won eight Volvo World Cup qualifiers before being sold into Jan Tops' yard in the Netherlands. It was there that Whitaker first encountered him three years ago.

"I had gone to look at another horse when Jan asked me to try Randi as he thought he might suit me," Whitaker said. Tops was proved right - the Yorkshireman liked the stallion immediately and bought him.

Tomorrow, when the home team contests the Nations Cup, Whitaker will have an unaccustomed place on the sidelines. He had told the selectors that he did not want to make Virtual Village Welham and Grannusch available for the team.

These were the two horses he rode when he was runner-up in the Volvo World Cup Final at the beginning of the month. Both are in their late teens and he believed that they deserved a rest.

The four British team members will be Michael Whitaker, Nick Skelton, Geoff Billington and Smith. Participation in the team contest could give them an edge over the elder Whitaker brother as they strive to accumulate points for the leading rider prize of a Land Rover Discovery. Points will be awarded for jumping clear rounds in the Nations Cup and they could prove crucial.

There is no need, however, to be distressed on the elder Whitaker's behalf. He has already won more than 60 cars in his career, four of them in the last six months.

ROYAL WINDSOR HORSE SHOW (Berks) Land Rover Great Park Stakes: 1 Virtual Village Randi (J Whitaker, GB) clear, 54.82sec; 2 Burg's Mr Blue (B Romp, Neth) clear, 56.29; 3 Goldenbridge (W J van der Schans, Neth) clear, 57.09. Hildon Six Bar: 1 Lionel (R Hoekstra, GB) clear in fifth round; 2 Senator Mighty Blue (R Smith, GB) 4 faults in fifth round; 3= Granata (P Geerink, Neth), Gravur IV (G Bockmann, Ger) and Weinerwirbel (C-O Nagel, Ger) 4 faults in fourth round. Hermes Dressage Grand Prix: 1 Legal Democrat (C Hester) 65.53 per cent; 2 El Lute (E Faurie) 64.67; 3 Barrollo (D Hogg) 64.33. Harrods International Driving Grand Prix (Standings after dressage for horse teams): 1 G Bowman (GB) 40.5 penalties; 2 Y Chardon (Neth) 44.3; 3 F Brasseur (Bel) 45.3.