Equestrianism: Smit takes a short cut to victory with Secret Love

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The Independent Online

Jerry Smit took the shortest possible route when he rode the Irish-bred mare, Secret Love, to win yesterday's Santa Claus Stakes on the second day of the Olympia Show Jumping Championships. The 32-year-old Italian rider collected £3,200 for his efforts, which was a flea bite compared with the £500,000 which he claimed last year in Cannes, where he gained the second of his two victories in the Pulsar Crown shortly before this valuable series ended.

Smit is one of the six riders from five different countries who form Team Ericsson, which came into existence at the start of last year. Yesterday his fellow riders were there to support him as well as the team manager, Jorg Munzner, who suggested a possible short-cut before the third from last jump-off fence where everybody else had taken a right-handed curve. "Your mare jumps better to the left than to the right," Munzner had said, "so why not go that way?"

Having followed the manager's suggestion, Smit defeated swift rounds from Germany's Markus Merschformann on Lincolm L and Britain's Michael Whitaker on Prince of Wales, with Wednesday night's Swiss victor, Beat Mandli, a whisker further back in fourth place on Gryfino. Whitaker, who had the disadvantage of being third into the 11-horse jump-off, might have thought of the same time-saving tactic had he been later in the draw.

Smit, who concentrates on buying young horses with potential and bringing them on, was neverless a thoroughly worthy winner. He is also a valued member of Team Ericsson, for his language skills as well as his show jumping talent. Both his parents are Dutch, so he speaks their language – as well as Italian, English, French, Spanish and German.

The earlier Mistletoe Stakes had given Britain's John Renwick his first outright victory at Olympia, where he jumped one of his inimitable galloping rounds on Brookend Fuhrer to defeat Candice King, from the United States, on Quintin, by a 1.69sec margin. Renwick, who will have his 30th birthday on 2 January, was joint winner of a pony pair relay here at the age of 11. He has also won two senior pair relays when partnered by Geoff Glazzard.

Renwick is realistic about the ability of the horse he is riding here. He does not believe that they have Grand Prix potential and will therefore not be attempting to qualify for tomorrow's World Cup qualifier. "I'll stick to the classes we have a chance in, otherwise we'll only be making up the numbers," Renwick said.

OLYMPIA SHOW JUMPING CHAMPIONSHIPS: Mistletoe Stakes: 1 Brookend Fuhrer (J Renwick, GB) 43.86sec; 2 Quintin (C King, US) 45.55; 3 Audi's Impression (E van der Vleuten, Neth) 47.16. Santa Claus Stakes: 1 Secret Love (J Smit, It) clear, 28.65sec; 2 Lincolm L (M Merschformann, Ger) clear, 29.46; 3 Prince of Wales (M Whitaker, GB) clear, 30.15.

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