Equestrianism: Skelton pulls out of Games after nose-diving off Arko

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The Independent Online

Nick Skelton has ruled himself out of next month's World Equestrian Games at Aachen in Germany, after Arko III refused at the fifth fence in yesterday's King George V Gold Cup, the closing contest of the Royal International Horse Show, and sent the British rider nose-diving to the ground.

The incident was hideously reminiscent of Skelton's fall in 2000 in which he broke his neck. This time, to everybody's great relief, he was quickly on his feet.

Arko, the leading horse on the world rankings for the last two years, has been refusing at recent shows. This contest was meant to prove he is back on top form, but instead of preparing for the Games, the stallion will be rested. With Skelton out, team manager Derek Ricketts will not have to deliberate over naming a squad of five for the World Games today.

Places automatically go to the others on the short list - John and Michael Whitaker, Robert Smith, Tim Gredley and William Funnell, who finished third behind Frenchman Roger-Yves Bost and Germany's Heindritch Engemann yesterday. Gredley, who had a depressing 22 faults on Omelli, is hoping to redeem himself in Dublin next week.

Earlier Molly Ashe recorded her second victory in the Queen Elizabeth II Cup (and the third in succession for US riders) when repeating her 2004 success with Lutopia.

"It was a lot tougher than last time," the 35-year-old rider from Florida said, after defeating Britain's Jane Annett on Cullawn Diamond by 7.64sec.

Longines Royal International Horse Show (Hickstead, Sussex): Longines King George V Gold Cup: 1 Ideal de la Loge (R-Y Bost, Fr) clear, 54.46sec; 2 Aboyeur (H Engemann, Ger) clear, 57.69; 3 Cortaflex Mondriaan (W Funnell, GB) 1 fault, 71.31. Bunn Leisure Queen Elizabeth II Cup: 1 Lutopia (M Ashe, US) clear, 45.69sec; 2 Cullawn Diamond (J Annett, GB) clear, 53.33; 3 Blauwendraad's O'Brien (A Hoorn, Neth) 4 faults, 43.71. Longines Classic: 1 Leonardo B (T Voss, Ger) clear, 46.73; 2 Audi's Alpapillon-Armanie (V Voorn, Neth) clear, 50.68; 3 Omelli (T Gredley, GB) clear, 51.27.

Sky Sports Speed Classic: 1 Zanoubia (C O'Connor, Irl) 79.50sec; 2 Kire Royal Star (R-Y Bost, Fr) 81.53; 3 Mullaghdrin Gold Rain (S Breen, Irl) 84.27.

Longines Awards for Elegance: Horseman: M Whitaker (GB); Horsewoman: M Hughes (Irl).