Equestrianism: Rivals' errors hand victory to Davenport and Laguina

Richard Davenport surprised himself, as well as most of those watching from the jam-packed stands, when he rode Laguina to win yesterday's World Cup Qualifier at the London International Horse Show.

Richard Davenport surprised himself, as well as most of those watching from the jam-packed stands, when he rode Laguina to win yesterday's World Cup Qualifier at the London International Horse Show. The 24-year-old Briton was first to go in the 13-horse jump-off and, though his clear round looked fast enough to put pressure on those who followed, it seemed more than likely that one or two would overtake him.

Davenport watched every single one of them with growing excitement and a slightly dazed realisation that the £20,000 first prize was actually within his grasp. His two illustrious fellow members of Team Sony Ericsson - Germany's Marcus Ehning and Brazil's Rodrigo Pessoa - set off in determined pursuit, but both made errors while chasing the Briton's time. So did Germany's Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst, who was fastest of all but hit the final fence.

In the end it was too little-known riders - Christophe Barbeau of Switzerland and Sebastian Numminen of Finland - who filled second and third places by jumping slow clear rounds. Both were competing at Olympia for the first time and both achieved their best ever World Cup results. "I saw Sebastian's round and I thought that was clever, so I decided to try and be clear and just a little bit faster than he was," Barbeau said, having achieved that goal to be runner-up.

This was also Davenport's biggest win (achieved by a remarkable 7.3 second margin) and the first international success for the nine-year-old mare, Laguina, who has been with the Cheshire rider for two years. Though lucky in some respects, it was certainly no fluke. It was also a happy change of fortune for Davenport, who lost three stone this year but was given a two-month suspension for taking an appetite suppressing drug that proved to be on the list of banned substances, and whose top horse, Luc, was sidelined through injury. When he saw that Laguina was a 33-1 shot with the Olympia bookmaker, he was tempted to have a bet on himself but decided that might be tempting fate.

Two other Britons, Robert Whitaker on Nicolette II and and Nick Skelton on Arko III, reached the jump-off but had two fences down to finish ninth and 10th respectively. Michael Whitaker incurred a single time fault in the opening round, which cost him a jump-off place.

London International Horse Show (Saturday - Christmas Masters): 1 Kalusha (R Smith, GB) clear, 24.85sec; 2 Sandro Boy (M Ehning, Ger) clear, 27.87; 3 Mosegardens Dilight (M Aabo, Den) 4 faults, 33.63. Antonia Cridland Stakes: 1 Loreana (L Nieberg, Ger) clear, 36.43sec; 2 Leena (M Beerbaum, Ger) clear, 36.84; 3 Pandur (N Skelton, 37.57. Yesterday - World Cup Qualifier: 1 Laguina (R Davenport, GB) clear, 37.16sec; 2 Chatwin (C Barbeau, Swit) clear, 44.46; 3 Miss Speed (S Numminen, Fin) clear, 45.42.

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