Equestrianism: Smith and Kalusha take British Open title with two clear rounds

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The Independent Online

Robert Smith maintained the British Open title that he won last year in Sheffield's Hallam FM Arena yesterday, when he jumped two wonderful clear rounds on the grey Kalusha who has become brilliantly consistent despite a few eccentricities. Smith could have afforded one mistake in the second round, but Kalusha's only error was to go a fraction over the time for just one fault.

The surprise second place went to Switzerland's Maryline Vorpe, a 25-year-old newcomer to Sheffield who was lying 289th in the world rankings but will have leapt a substantial number of places after her consistent performances here with Mercure du Chable.

"She rode very well and she kept her nerve," Smith said of Vorpe, who finished 6.5 points behind him on a score of 7.5 faults. She had ridden her careful 12-year-old gelding in all three qualifiers as well as yesterday's two-round final, remaining consistent throughout.

Overseas riders took the next two places as well, with the Dutchman Eric van der Vleuten third on Paloma (10 faults) and the Frenchman Florian Angot fourth on the lovely chestnut stallion First de Launay (10.5). Michael Whitaker, back in 11th place at the start of the day, had just one time fault in his two rounds on Portofino to finish in fifth (13.5) and second best of the British.

Smith was recording his second victory in this annual contest which has been won by a British rider every year since it began in 2003, with Robert Whitaker and Nick Skelton triumphant before Smith's double.

Though both John Whitaker and his niece, Ellen, failed to reach yesterday's final, the famous Yorkshire family gave the crowds plenty to cheer, notably with John capping a successful Saturday by taking two of the three equal first places in the Puissance. His brother, Michael, also won a class on Saturday, as did Ellen's 18-year-old brother, Joe.

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