Babington buoyant but British hopes lack inspiration

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The Independent Online

Irish riders continued to display their superiority when Kevin Babington rode Carling King to win the Virtual Village British Grand Prix with two of his team-mates on last month's victorious European Championship team – Peter Charles and Dermott Lennon – filling third and fifth places.

There was nothing, however, to boost British morale on the eve of today's Nations Cup. John Whitaker was the only home rider to reach the six-horse jump-off (finishing sixth on Calvaro) and he is not riding on the team here. Of those who are representing Britain today, Michael Whitaker had 10 faults on Prince of Wales, Mark Armstrong had 12 on Elise and Di Lampard retired after Abbervail Dream had lowered four fences. Scott Smith has yet to jump Cabri d'Elle, having decided to save the stallion for today.

Babington, who has been based in Pennsylvania since going to the States to work on a summer camp, was last into yesterday's jump-off with Carling King. He had a fast round to beat Germany's Rene Tebbel on Stiegelmaier Radiator and he did so in a style that would have delighted his past trainers, Iris Kellett from Ireland and Frank Chapot in America.

Being selected to jump for Ireland from an American base was not easy. "I had to ring them a lot," Babington said. Eventually he was told that he would need to compete in Europe, so he came over last year and was part of the winning Irish team here. This year he returned, hoping to be chosen for last month's European Championship team and for the Dublin Horse Show, which begins in two weeks' time. Both objectives were achieved, plus the European team gold medal. While Carling King remains in Germany, Babington makes regular trans-Atlantic journeys to look after his horse dealing business in the States.

Virtual Village, which creates IT training programmes, sponsored its first international show jumping classes here yesterday. Appropriately enough the Virtual Village Chase was won by a member of their own team, Michael Whitaker on First Samuel.

ROYAL INTERNATIONAL HORSE SHOW (Hickstead, Sussex): Virtual Village British Grand Prix: 1 Carling King (K Babington, Irl) clear, 59.05sec; 2 Stiegelmaier Radiator (R Tebbel, Ger) clear, 59.47; 3 Traxdata Carnavelly (P Charles, Irl) clear, 60.45. Best GB: 6 Village Village Calvaro (J Whitaker) 8 faults, 60.46. Virtual Village Chase: 1 Virtual Village First Samuel (M Whitaker, GB) clear, 65.76sec; 2 Honnie (R Power, Irl) clear, 66.08; 3 Traxdata Parcival (T Stockdale, GB) clear, 69.26.

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