Equestrianism: Pessoa piles on the points

Rodrigo Pessoa's corner-shaving round on Gandini Lianos looked virtually unbeatable, but the gifted 29-year-old Brazilian saw two opponents come uncomfortably close in yesterday's World Cup qualifier before his first prize was secure.

Riding the 15-year-old Gandini Lianos, his mount when he won the world title in 1998, Pessoa achieved some agile twists and turns at the key second and third jump-off fences. But so did Switzerland's Markus Fuchs on Tinka's Boy and Germany's Markus Ehning on For Pleasure, who filled the next two places in a thrilling inish in which a mere 0.59sec separated the leading trio.

Robert Smith, the only Briton in the contest, had dropped out of contention with two errors on Mr Springfield in the opening round. Smith gained an impressive win here in Saturday's Two-Phase Competition with Marius Claudius, but elected to ride Mr Springfield, runner-up in a big contest on Friday night, yesterday.

"I decided on Mr Springfield because he'd only jumped in one class here and went so well in it," Smith said. "But he was a bit too sharp today."

Pessoa, who has finished in the top three in the last five World Cup finals has moved up to second place on the Western European League. He will be out to gain some more qualifying points at the next three World Cup shows: Berlin, Geneva and London's Olympia. "I want to get as many points as possible so I can have a good Christmas," he said.

VERONA WORLD CUP SHOW (Italy) Saturday: Two-Phase Competition: 1 Marius Claudius (R Smith, GB) clear, 22.56; 2 Collin (M Merschformann, Ger) clear, 23.21; 3 Kamea (A Lindelow, Swe) clear, 23.51. Yesterday: World Cup Qualifier: 1 Gandini Lianos (R Pessoa, Br) clear, 33.28; 2 Tinka's Boy (M Fuchs, Swit) clear, 33.51; 3 For Pleasure (M Ehning, Ger) clear, 33.87. GB: 27 Mr Springfield (R Smith) 8 faults in 1st round. Standings on Western European League of World Cup: 1 T Velin (Den) 38pts; 2 R Pessoa (Br) 37; 3 M Ehning (Ger) 30.

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