Equestrianism: Whitaker inspires respect

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The Independent Online
JOHN WHITAKER gained yet another memorable victory on the 19-year- old Virtual Village Welham when he defeated his younger brother, Michael, to win the British Grand Prix at the Traxdata Royal International Horse Show here yesterday.

Michael was on the huge stallion, Calvaro, who has been with him for only a month but already looks a splendid addition to his string. He explained why he did not attempt a record time in the six-horse jump-off: "No matter how fast I'd gone, John would have gone faster," Michael said after finishing 4.13sec behind his brother and 7.23sec ahead of Robert Bevis, who was third on Innishkea.

John Whitaker agreed that the pounds 3,000 first prize represented a small reward for his effort. He had collected pounds 12,000 when winning the St Gallen Grand Prix on Welham this year and will be jumping for another reward of pounds 12,000 in the King George V Gold Cup here on Sunday.

Peter Charles sustained an ankle injury when he fell during the Horse and Hound Eventing Grand Prix on Wednesday and will be missing from Ireland's team in today's Samsung Nations Cup.

The injury strengthened the argument of Tommy Wade, the Irish chef d'equipe, against shows being allowed to limit nominated riders to four per country, leaving nobody in reserve.

The Hickstead organisers have taken this money-saving option for the first time (they have to pay expenses for only the nominated riders) but nevertheless it has been agreed that Marion Hughes, who paid her own way here, can fill the vacant place on the Irish team today.

Nick Skelton will be first to go for the British team, followed by Michael Whitaker on Calvaro, Di Lampard on Abbervail Dream and John Whitaker on his new mount, Flower. Calvaro is a replacement for Michael Whitaker's intended mount, the Cannes Grand Prix winner, Ashley, who is recovering from a twisted fetlock.

Traxdata Royal International Horse Show: British Grand Prix: 1 Virtual Village Welham (J Whitaker, GB) clear, 54.30sec; 2 Virtual Village Calvaro (M Whitaker, GB) clear, 58.43; 3 Inishkea (R Bevis, GB) clear, 65.60. Royal International Chase: 1 Landdame (F Sloothaak, Ger) clear, 70.01secs; 2 Virtual Village Hunter's Level (J Whitaker, GB) clear, 70.55; 3 Heritage Vaor D'Isigne (M Hughes, Irl) clear, 76.94.