Equestrianism: Whitaker's precision prevails

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The Independent Online
JOHN WHITAKER gained his first win of this year's Olympia Show Jumping Championships when he rode Grannusch to victory in last night's Christmas Cracker Stakes in a jump-off round which displayed his remarkable skill and the generosity of his chestnut partner.

Both the contest and the winning horse carried the Everest prefix, but the home improvement firm figured so largely in yesterday's events that there has to be some restraint in mentioning it every time it crops up. Whitaker defeated the Olympic champion, Ludger Beerbaum on Almox Alex, by a split second.

Whitaker was ahead on time coming into the final double, when the horse spooked at his own front shoe as it came off and hit the side of the arena. Whitaker's natural reflexes enabled him to momentarily restrain Grannusch and get his concentration back before completing his clear round.

Whitaker and his top horse, Everest Milton, have the worst possible draw in today's Volvo World Cup qualifier in which they are first to go. Team Everest had already peaked in two of the firm's earlier sponsored classes, when Geoff Luckett won the two-horse contest, the Snowman Stakes, on Fire One and Cloud Chase - and when Marie Edgar took the later Brandy Butter Stakes on Surething.

Edgar won by 0.01sec, beating Nick Skelton and Limited Edition. It was the fourth time Skelton had been beaten into second place and you would have thought that this latest, and closest, near-miss might represent a mountain of frustration. But Skelton could, at least, claim to be consistent.

Skelton's main concern had more to do with the necessity of having to jump big courses for prizemoney that was much lower than that on offer at recent continental shows.

OLYMPIA SHOW JUMPING CHAMPIONSHIPS: Everest Christmas Cake Stakes: 1 Everest Grannusch (J Whitaker, GB) clear, 28.71; 2 Almox Alex (L Beerbaum, Ger) clear, 28.97; 3 Rhapsody (G Billington, GB) clear, 29.11. Everest Brandy Butter Stakes: 1 Everest Surething (M Edgar, GB) clear, 26.74secs; 2 Everest Florida (N Skelton, GB) clear, 26.75; 3 Ancit Countryman (D Broome, GB) clear, 27.29. Everest Snowman Stakes: 1 Everest Fire One and Cloud Chase (G Luckett, GB) 72.64secs; 2 Delsey and JJ (D Bowen, GB) 77.52; 3 Everest Unique and Minka (M Edgar) 80.79. Everest Mince Pie Stakes: 1 President Papillon (R-Y Bost, Fr) 36pts, 39.66; 2 Everest Minka (M Edgar, GB) 36, 46.35; 3 Springbok (G Gullikson, Nor) 36, 48.34. Christy Beaufort Young Show Jumper of the Year: 1 My Double Diamond (V Young) clear, 29.65secs; 2 Miniature Quickstep (A Davies) clear, 31.64; 3 Mr Tire Sales (R Foulk) clear, 37.26.

(Photograph omitted)