Equestrianism: Whitaker retakes national title

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JOHN WHITAKER rode Henderson Grannusch to victory for the second day running when he won yesterday's National Championship with two further impressive clear rounds. This national title (now supported by his own Henderson sponsors) had, surprisingly, eluded him since he last won it on Ryan's Son back in 1976.

On Tuesday (while his nine- year-old son, Robert, was winning two competitions at another show) Whitaker had been first to go in the jump-off. Yesterday he had the favoured last place in the draw and easily defeated Tina Cassan on the good young eight- year-old thoroughbred, Asdic Archie.

Last year's winner, Veronique Whitaker (John's sister-in-law) had one fence down in the first jump-off on Henderson Fol Amour, to finish equal fourth. The horse may have been distracted by a plane that was passing noisily overhead.

Grannusch was Whitaker's mount for the first two legs of the Renault final in Paris last December. Though the chestnut earned vital points, it was Henderson Milton who took most of the glory by winning the third leg to give Whitaker overall victory.

Yesterday's national championship was probably the biggest contest Grannusch has won. 'He's a good horse who's always knocking on the door, but he's never quite got his just desserts,' Whitaker said.

Grannusch, out of action through injury since early June, will now take another rest.

Shortly after yesterday's win, Whitaker left for Dinard where he will be riding Milton in the French Nations Cup meeting. He has joined Geoff Luckett, Emma-Jane Mac, Peter Murphy and Robert Smith who complete the British squad.

It will be an important weekend for Milton, who has been given a relatively easy time this year in preparation for the Olympic Games. In Dinard, however, he is due to jump in three contests, including the Nations Cup and Grand Prix, and his rider will be anxious to see how he copes with the extra workload.

Next Monday, Whitaker will have the rare luxury of a day off at home before he rejoins the British Olympic squad for the Dublin Horse Show, which begins its five- day run on Tuesday.

ROYAL SHOW (Stoneleigh, Warwicks): Henderson National Championship: 1 Henderson Grannusch (J Whitaker) clear, 32.76secs; 2 Asdic Archie (T Cassan) clear, 36.50; 3 Orthos (A Austin) 4 faults, 40.05.

Horse and Hound Working Hunter Championship: Fuse (A Barclay); Reserve: Sir Charles Esq (T Fairburn). Riding Pony Championship: Royal Bronze (A Evans); Reserve: Polly's Gem (H Day). Cob Championship: Super Ted (R Oliver); Reserve: Tom Cobbley (C Littlewood).