Equestrianism: Whitaker virtually wins

EQUESTRIANISM
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The Independent Online
JOHN WHITAKER and his new mount, Virtual Village Flower, were defeated by a mere 0.19sec when finishing runner-up to the world champions, Rodrigo Pessoa and Gandini Lianos, on the second day of the Aachen International Horse Show.

"John set a very high standard," Pessoa said, after going last in the six-horse jump-off for the Preis von Europa. Although slower over the first, slippery half of the course the Brazilian's long-striding horse made up time over the latter fences to win by a whisker.

British supporters could scarcely have been much happier if Whitaker had won, because the performance proved that he now has a wonderful new partner in the 11-year-old mare with whom he teamed up last month. Flower's Dutch owner, Roseanne Coolen, was as delighted as any of them.

Coolen has "50 something" horses in various stables around Europe. Her two favourites are Heyman and Flower who are both with Whitaker. "He is the best in the world by far; he needed the chance to have some younger horses," she said of the Yorkshireman.

Heyman was Whitaker's mount at the World Equestrian Games last year, but it looks as though Flower will surpass him. The mare will probably have another chance to prove her worth in tomorrow's Nations Cup.

With only six clear rounds from 62 starters, yesterday's course (and the tight time allowed) was a demanding test. Two other Britons finished with just a single error and inside the time over the long course: Michael Whitaker on Ashley and Di Lampard on Abbervail Dream.

Yesterday it was announced that McLain Ward, one of the United States riders, had been expelled from the show on Tuesday after shafts of plastic were discovered under one of his horse's bandages, presumably placed there so that his mount would want to avoid hitting any fences. Ward's father, Barney, was recently released from prison having been convicted for his part in an insurance fraud which involved the killing of horses.

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