Equestrianism: Beerbaum steals the limelight in jump-off

Markus Beerbaum, so often in the shadow of his wife Meredith and his elder brother Ludger, became a hero in his own right yesterday at the London International Horse show when he rode Leena to gain his first victory in a European World Cup qualifier.

Beerbaum won with a clear round in the 10-horse jump-off, defeating his German compatriot Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst, the victor in the Martin Collins Christmas Masters here on Saturday, and Switzerland's Beat Mandli, who has maintained his lead in the Western European World Cup League.

Tim Stockdale and Mark Armstrong, the only two Britons through to the jump-off, finished fourth and sixth, both with double clear rounds.

Beerbaum praised his 14-year-old mount. "She's super fast and she gave everything," he said. Pollmann-Schweckhorst, who was beaten by just 0.33seconds, praised the show."I love Olympia and the show is great, it's how show jumping should be presented," he enthused.

For Stockdale, trainer of the celebrities in the reality television series Only Fools on Horses, it was a great opportunity to show that he can ride as well as teach. It was also a chance to discover that the grey mare Fresh Direct Corlato has come back as good as ever after breaking her humerus, a bone between the shoulder and front leg, in a fall at the Nations Cup water jump in Lisbon in June, when Stockdale also broke six ribs.

Though Corlato has not jumped water since, Stockdale has reason to hope that she will not have any future problems. The mare was on his lorry when it was hit from behind with such force that the vehicle had to be written off. Far from being intimidated by that experience, she walked straight up the ramp of a horsebox when next asked to do so. "She's a very tough lady," he said.

Stockdale is now hoping to secure a place in the team for next August's European Championships at Mannheim in Germany. There will be some tough opposition with - among others - four members of the Whitaker clan (John, his brother Michael, son Robert and niece Ellen) among strong contenders for one of the four team-places. Both Robert on Lacroix and Ellen on Locarno missed yesterday's jump-off because of a single error, as did William Funnell on Cortaflex Amber du Montois.

John Whitaker, who had two errors on his promising but inexperienced new mount Casino, will be able to rely on Peppermill, the current star of his string, who missed Olympia through a minor injury. With Nick Skelton and Arko III due to return to the fray after his lay-off, next year's contenders for championship selection could be the strongest bunch Britain has seen for years.

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