Equestrianism: Whitaker's fillip for Britain with an opening-day double: Midnight Madness a winner

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The Independent Online
MICHAEL WHITAKER gave Britain a splendid start to the German Nations' Cup meeting when he scored an opening-day double here yesterday, on Everest My Mesieur and Midnight Madness.

Both contests were judged on time in the opening round. Having zipped round clear on My Mesieur, Whitaker had to wait while other challengers tried, and failed, to catch his time in this long contest for the Commerzbank Prize. The Swiss riders, Thomas Fuchs and Willi Melliger, took the next two places.

The later Mercedes-Benz Prize, in which Whitaker was the second rider in a field of 64 starters, left the Briton waiting anxiously for some two and a half hours before his victory was assured. He had jumped a typically aggressive corner-cutting round on Midnight Madness, whom he expects to ride in next month's European Championships. Brazil's Rodrigo Pessoa and Germany's Markus Beerbaum came closest but they could not match the Briton's time.

'He's a winner,' Whitaker said of the 10-year-old bay, Midnight Madness. 'Every time you go into the arena, you feel he's capable of beating the rest of them. He can be a bit spooky at the start of a show, especially in a big arena like this one, but he's really careful - he doesn't like hitting fences.'

Mark Armstrong, who was tackling the big Aachen fences for the first time, had the only other British clear round, to finish 10th on Corella.

GERMAN NATIONS' CUP MEETING (Aachen) Commerzbank Prize: 1 Everest My Mesieur (M Whitaker, GB) clear, 55.80sec; 2 Planet AC Folien (T Fuchs, Swit) clear, 56.76; 3 Athlet (W Melliger, Swit) clear, 57.24. Mercedes-Benz Prize: 1 Everest Midnight Madness (M Whitaker, GB) clear, 64.81; 2 Loro Piana Special Envoy (R Pessoa, Bra) clear, 65.43; 3 Almox Polka (M Beerbaum, Ger) clear, 65.49; 10 Corella (M Armstrong GB) clear, 75.47