Equestrianism: Whitaker's Midnight express

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MICHAEL WHITAKER'S daring supplied a thrilling home victory in last night's Olympia Grand Prix, when he rode Everest Midnight Madness to win with the fastest round of the 10-horse jump-off on the closing day of the Olympia Show Jumping Championships.

Malcolm Pyrah was the last Briton to win this contest in 1986. Whitaker had never won it, but he was clearly intent on rectifying that when he set out in pursuit of Ludger Beerbaum, the Olympic champion, who was leading on Almox Ratina.

Whitaker and his brilliant young mount, who is his great hope for the future, finished a split second ahead, with Beerbaum second and the Frenchman Herve Godignon close behind on Akai Quidam de Revel. Britain's Paul Sutton jumped the only other clear round to finish fourth.

Michael Whitaker was the show's top money-winner. Nick Skelton - who, like John Whitaker on Milton, had one error in the first round - was the leader on points.

Skelton's frustrating run of five runner-up prizes had come to an end when he rode Florida to gain his first outright victory, albeit by a whisker, in yesterday's Everest Christmas Knock-Out. The final was between two horses from Team Everest - Florida and Fonda, the mount of John Whitaker - who both lowered three fences. The clock decided in Skelton's favour, by 0.18sec.

Skelton, on Major Wager, went on to share first place in the Christmas Eve Six Bar with Germany's Franke Sloothaak on San Patrignano Dorina, a mare that he has been riding for little more than a week. Dorina's prefix refers to the Italian drug rehablitation centre, which sponsors the yard that Sloothaak set up in Germany two weeks ago.

Another brilliantly audacious round by Beerbaum on Ratina gave the Olympic champion victory in Saturday's World Cup qualifier.

Beerbaum leads on the European League of the World Cup, with Charles in fourth. John Whitaker, who was seventh on Milton, is equal 21st and best of the British.

Only 20 European riders are allowed to contest Easter's World Cup final in Gothenburg so, with only five qualifiers left, British riders will have to start chasing points with some urgency.

OLYMPIA SHOW JUMPING CHAMPIONSHIPS: Olympia Grand Prix: 1 Everest Midnight Madness (M Whitaker, GB) clear, 29.64sec; 2 Almox Ratina (L Beerbaum, Ger) clear, 30.32; 3 Akai Quidam de Revel (R-Y Bost, Fr) clear, 30.44. Christmas Eve Six Bar: 1= Everest Major Wager (N Skelton, GB), San Patrignano Dorina (F Sloothaak, Ger) ETHER write errorclear in 4th jump-off; 3= Robin Z (P Eriksson, Swe), Optiebeurs Easy Jumper (J Lansink, Neth) 4 faults in 4th jump-off. Everest Christmas Knock-Out: 1 Everest Florida (N Skelton, GB); 2 Everest Fonda (J Whitaker, GB); 3= Lysco (H Lanner, Swe), Lakeside (P Charles, Irl). Volvo World Cup qualifier: 1 Almox Ratina (L Beerbaum, Ger) clear, 32.78sec; 2 Royal Chocolate (P Charles, Ire) clear, 36.13; 3 Bockmann's Genius (T Fruhmann, Aut) clear, 36.78. Standings on European League of World Cup: 1 L Beerbaum (Ger) 58pts; 2 H Luther (Ger) 56; 3 C Martinez de Irujo (Sp) 53. Raymond Brooks-Ward Memorial Trophy (young rider showing greatest potential in 1992): P Nolan.