EQUESTRIANISM:Big-time first for Bradley

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The Independent Online
Alison Bradley achieved her first international victory when she rode the stallion, Endeavour, to win last night's Christmas Turkey Stakes at the Olympia Show Jumping Championships.

The 25-year-old Bradley was nominated by the British selectors for a place in these championships and she made the most of it with a swift clear round in the jump-off between 16 horses. She defeated Jan Tops, from the Netherlands, who had the only other clear round on Operrette la Silla, but was all of 5.96sec slower.

Bradley, who has been based with Nick Skelton since August, also had the satisfaction of defeating the Olympic champion, Ludger Beerbaum, from Germany. Beerbaum's round on Sprehe It's Me was faster than Bradley's, but he made a single jump-off error.

Michael Whitaker was quickly into his stride when winning the Holly Stakes, the opening competition of the championships. His mount was the eight-year-old stallion, Everest Elton, who slipped on a couple of turns but kept his balance to win by 0.54sec.

Though many of those in contention opted to give their horses a quiet school, Whitaker's time was chased with some purpose by the next three in the line-up - Herve Godignon from France on Sarcelle de Sisse, Skelton on Everest Showtime and John Whitaker (the winner's elder brother) on Welham.

Michael Whitaker said that he would probably have gone for a slow clear round had he been jumping abroad. But he wanted to give the home crowds value for money, so he went for a fast time as well. "It was probably not in Elton's best interests," he said , knowing that the stallion may now be a bit too exuberant for the contests to come.

"If you don't win the first, you can't win them all," Whitaker observed with a grin. He later set out with the obvious intention of winning the second one as well, only to part company with Everest My Mesieur when taking a sharp turn to the sixth fence in the Christmas Stocking Stakes. This time the horse slipped and came down on his knees, giving Whitaker no chance to stay on board.

Rob Ehrens, one of four Dutch riders competing here, had taken an early lead on Wunderknabe (which means Wonderboy) but he expected the last three riders in the competition to beat him.

"I thought I am already happy with fourth place," Ehrens said, before Stefan Lauber of Switzerland, Godignon of France, and (finally) Whitaker tried in vain to deprive him of the top prize.

OLYMPIA SHOW JUMPING CHAMPIONSHIPS: Holly Stakes: 1 Everest Elton (M Whitaker, GB) clear, 46.79secs; 2 Sarcelle de Sisse (H Godignon, Fr) clear, 47.33; 3 Everest Showtime (N Skelton, GB) clear, 48.83. Christmas Stocking Stakes: 1 Wunderknabe (R Ehrens, Neth) 36.15secs; 2 Gento (T Fruhmann, Aut) 36.17; 3 Uquileo le Fol (H Godignon, Fr) 37.75. Sprehe Christmas Turkey Stakes: 1 Endeavour (A Bradley, GB) clear, 32.09sec; 2 Operette la Silla (J Tops, Neth) clear, 38.05; 3 Sprehe It's Me (L Beerbaum, Ger) 4 faults, 30.29.