Equestrianism: Whitaker makes light of challenging course

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The Independent Online
John Whitaker was quick to stamp his class on the New Forest and Hampshire Show when he won yesterday's New Forest Stakes on the 18-year-old Virtual Village Grannusch.

Despite his years, the chestnut presented a picture of gleaming good health in yesterday's sunshine as he took an economical route round the jump-off course to win by 1.13sec. He defeated Geoff Luckett, who achieved the only other jump-off clear on Rosemary Ockendon-Day's Clover Chief.

"John should be given a five-second penalty," the amiable Luckett said after collecting the runner-up prize on the 11-year-old horse. He has been riding Clover Chief for about a year and has recently found that he can move up a gear when required without losing his accuracy.

Luckett was delighted with both Clover Chief and his other 11-year-old partner, the black horse Kaun, who has come back after two years off through injury. Yesterday Kaun made his only mistake when lowering the last fence in the opening round.

Whitaker regarded the course as "good and quite technical, without being over big." The final line of a water jump to a treble demanded special control and accuracy, as the Yorkshireman found when he erred going into the treble with his first mount, the grey stallion Randi.

The main contest of the show will be tomorrow's Dibden Ford International Championship Team Trial in which Mark Armstrong and Di Lampard will be aiming to earn enough points to get on the British squad for next month's European Show Jumping Championships.

NEW FOREST AND HAMPSHIRE COUNTY SHOW (Brockenhurst): New Forest Stakes: 1 Virtual Village Grannusch (J Whitaker) clear, 47.89; 2 Clover Chief (G Luckett) clear, 49.84; 3 Sumas Oscar (T Stockdale) 4 faults, 48.71.