Equestrianism: Leygue makes winning start

Ludovic Leygue of France rode Diablo du Parc II to win the West Sands International Stakes yesterday on the opening day of the Royal International Horse Show at Hickstead.

While most of their rivals sauntered round, using this class as a warm-up for the bigger contests to come, Leygue and Michael Whitaker's new stable jockey, Jackson Reed-Stephenson, whom he beat by one hundredth of a second, at least put in their best effort.

In today's Samsung Nations Cup Di Lampard, riding Abbervail Dream, will be first to go for the home team. "She's a very sound and experienced person," the Great Britain chef d'equipe, Derek Ricketts, said of his pathfinder. Lampard will be followed by Scott Smith on Cabri d'Elle, Mark Armstrong on Elise and Tim Stockdale on Fresh Direct Parcival. The latter's new prefix follows yesterday's announcement that Stockdale (now sporting a distinctive green and orange jacket) has signed an 18-month contract, worth "a substantial six-figure sum", with the fruit and vegetable suppliers.

Next year's introduction of a show jumping Super League has given a new sense of urgency to Nations Cups, since points earned in these contests will help to determine which eight nations move into the top tier. Hickstead will almost certainly be one of the eight Super League venues, but Britain is still battling to finish among the top eight countries. Recently rumoured to have been put on hold, Super League is now virtually certain to go ahead next year.

ROYAL INTERNATIONAL HORSE SHOW (Hickstead): West Sands Selsey International Stakes: 1 Diablo du Parc II (L Leygue, Fr) clear, 81.35sec; 2 Baileys Pion (J Reed-Stephenson, GB) clear, 81.36; 3 Coolcorron Cool Diamond (R Splaine, Irl) clear, 81.78.

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