Equestrianism: Idle Dice back on form

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The Independent Online

James Fisher repeated his 2000 victory, this year with 14-year-old Idle Dice, when he won yesterday's Osborne Refrigerators Derby Trial on the second day of the British Jumping Derby meeting.

James Fisher repeated his 2000 victory, this year with 14-year-old Idle Dice, when he won yesterday's Osborne Refrigerators Derby Trial on the second day of the British Jumping Derby meeting.

The gelding, who is "really nice, but strong and hot" returned to competition at Windsor last month after a year off through an injury that was sustained when twisting a fetlock while loose in his field after returning from the Spanish Sunshine tour, where he had won a grand prix. Fisher had been looking forward to the rest of his 2003 campaign until the horse was injured.

The last of three into the jump-off, Fisher knew what he had to beat and finished 1.65sec ahead of Mark Armstrong on Primma. Jane Annette, who won this class last year, was a close third on Cullawn Diamond. All three riders will be competing in tomorrow's DFS Derby and, having jumped double clear-rounds, will be pleased to know that their horses are on good form.

Ellen Whitaker, now 18 and therefore eligible to contest her first derby, produced a wonderful exhibition of unflappable riding when AK Lacarno napped towards the arena's exit, straightening up only just in time to clear the combination that followed. This deviation cost her one time fault and left her in fourth place.

Robert Whitaker, Ellen's 21-year-old cousin who had won two earlier classes, missed the jump-off through a single error to finish sixth on Qualite.

Ireland's Peter Charles also had single errors with both his derby mounts - Pershing and the giant grey, Alaska - who look to be on good enough form to give him a serious chance of recording his fourth consecutive victory in the Hickstead Derby.

Earlier Robert Whitaker had extended his run of successes, which included victory in the Madrid Grand Prix where he collected the richest reward in his show jumping career by winning £27,000 on the mare Nicolette. He rode two other mares, Karina and Osinie Hune, to win here yesterday after Robert and his father, John Whitaker, had travelled on from competing at the Suffolk County Show to arrive at the Sussex showground on Thursday evening.

In between competitions, Robert Whitaker has been practising over replicas of the derby fences at home in Yorkshire with Qualite. He felt ill-prepared for the big competition last year when Qualite was equal fourth, so is looking for a higher placing tomorrow.

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