Equestrianism: Whitaker wet but delighted

JOHN WHITAKER had the final word on the closing day of the Dublin Horse Show yesterday, when he rode the 19-year-old Virtual Village Welham to win the Kerrygold International Grand Prix on the rain-soaked ground that his venerable partner relishes.

"The weather couldn't have been better for us," Whitaker said, after defeating Germany's Holger Hetzel on Zodiac by a commanding 4.30 seconds. This was his second victory in the contest, which he last won on Grannusch in 1994.

Nick Skelton, riding last year's winner, Hopes are High, made a determined bid for a second consecutive victory - but, though well ahead of Whitaker on time, he had to settle for third place after a mistake coming out of the double which was the second last jump-off fence.

"Maybe he jumped in a bit too far, because the distance was quite short," Skelton said.

Only three others had jumped clear initially to reach the jump-off: Eddie Macken (Ireland), on Fan Pascal, Lutz Gripshover (Germany) on Warren and Di Lampard (Britain) on Abbervail Dream. Though Lampard finished in sixth place with 14 faults in the jump-off (seven for jumping and seven for time) she must have secured the last place on the British squad for this month's European Championships at Hickstead.

Geoff Billington, the only other obvious contender, had two refusals at the last part of the treble with It's Otto before retiring. This must surely rule him out of selection.

KERRYGOLD DUBLIN HORSE SHOW: Kerrygold International Grand Prix: 1 Virtual Village Welham (J Whitaker, GB) clear, 54.18sec; 2 Zodiac (H Hetzel, Ger) clear, 58.48; 3 Hopes are High (N Skelton, GB) 51.45. Kerrygold Speed Championship: 1 Senator Almare (R Smith, GB) 59.26sec; 2 Virtual Village Double Dutch (G Billington, GB) 60.37; 3 Fiola X (B Madden, US) 60.85. Kerrygold Mini Grand Prix: 1 Clover Brigade (T Slattery, Irl) clear, 36.58; 2 Sandstone Pelota de Goma (T Grubb, US) clear, 37.41; 3 Lulu (L Little, US) clear, 38.22. Best GB: 7 Virtual Village Flower (J Whitaker) 4 faults, 37.51. Power and Speed: 1 Satan du Tremblay (C Ahlmann, Ger) clear, 32.48; 2 Millstreet Ruby (Capt J Ledingham, Irl) clear, 32.49; 3 Diamond Explosion (Capt G Flynn, Irl) clear, 33.27. Best GB: 5 Calvaro (M Whitaker) clear, 35.56. Puissance: 1 Le Patron (R Tebbel, Ger) and Cor d'Alme (E Doyle, Irl) 4 faults in 4th round; 3 Traxdata Wiston Bridget (T Stockdale, GB) 4 faults in 3rd round.