Blue water hazard has Whitaker flummoxed

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The Independent Online

The German riders, fancied to retain their team title in the European Show Jumping Championships, have wasted no time displaying superiority. At the end of yesterday's speed competition ­ the first leg of the event ­ they held an advantage of 8.29 faults over Ireland, with Sweden third and Britain a distant 10th.

Wout-Jan van der Schans, who holds the individual lead for the home country, shrugged aside a collarbone which he broke two weeks ago to jump a whirlwind clear round. He now has a narrow advantage over Ludger Beerbaum on Gladdys, with Italy's Jerry Smit third.

Di Lampard summed up the British effort: "It was a shock to see our four riders go like that." All four made a mistake at the double of water ditches (the 10th of 14 fences) ­ as did three-quarters of the 59 riders. "It was a bit of a joker fence," Michael Whitaker, now 22nd on Prince of Wales and best of the British, said. "There was a blue lake next to it and blue water under both parts, horses weren't sure what they were coming to." He reckoned that his mount had a scare at that obstacle, which is why he had the next fence down. Beerbaum also referred to the double as "the joker in the class" ­ but insisted it was "not unfair".

Both Mark Armstrong and Di Lampard had two fences down, while newcomer Scott Smith had three mistakes. Smith, however, did at least ride as though he were in a speed class and he is now second best of the British. "I made a wrong decision at the fifth fence, but you can't learn these things until you're here," he said.

EUROPEAN SHOW JUMPING CHAMPIONSHIPS (Arnhem, Neth): First leg: 1 Broere Corland (W-J Van Der Schans, Neth) 84.52sec; 2 Gladdys S (L Beerbaum, Ger) 84.65; 3 Lux Z (J Smit, It) 86.23; 4 Chandra (S Von Ronne, Ger) 86.90; 5 Laurion (S Pedersen, Den) 87.86; 6 Cardento (P Eriksson, Swe) 87.99. GB: 22 Prince of Wales (M Whitaker) 99.00; 32 Cabri d'Elle (S Smith) 103.69; 34 Elise (M Armstrong) 104.66; 36 Abbervail Dream (D Lampard) 106.22. Teams: 1 Germany 5.75 faults; 2 Ireland 14.04; 3 Sweden 14.19; 4 Belgium 15.53; 5 Netherlands 15.81; 6 Denmark 16.78; 7 Switzerland 20.72; 8 Italy 22.41; 9 France 25.92; 10 Great Britain 26.90.

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