Equestrianism: Skelton triumphs as Smith makes miscalculation

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The Independent Online

Nick Skelton collected £25,000 at the Hallam FM Arena, after a tense duel with Robert Smith who had held the lead as 20 riders went into yesterday's two-round finale. Skelton took his chance after Smith's Mr Springfield, who returned to competition last month after a long lay-off, erred at the last two of the 12 fences in yesterday's opening round.

"He ran out of steam, he wasn't fit enough," Smith said, after pocketing the £10,000 runner-up prize. "I thought he was fit otherwise I wouldn't have run him, but he obviously wasn't."

Skelton, who jumped one of only three clear rounds over the first course, therefore found himself in the lead as they prepared to tackle a shorter track of eight fences. He could afford to make a single mistake on the powerful bay stallion, Arko III, but that margin of error disappeared when a pole fell from the second fence.

"That was my fault," Skelton said. "I was a bit slow to the first fence and sloppy to the second." Harry Smolder, an impressive 24-year-old rider from the Netherlands, was third with Omar on whom he was given the ride only two months ago.

Only two riders achieved double clear rounds yesterday: Germany's Hauke Luther, who retained fourth place on Index, and Switzerland's Steve Guerdat, who advanced from overnight 18th to be fifth, on Campus.

Sadly for the spectators, who would have loved to see a Yorkshire victory, none of the three members of the Whitaker family made it through to the final round of competition.

Both Skelton and Smith welcomed changes to the format made since last year, but they would like to see the number of contests making up the British Open reduced from four to three.