Equestrianism: Smith looking to secure place in European Championship

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The Independent Online

Robert Smith, who reached his highest place on the world rankings when he moved up to ninth this month, will be looking to confirm recent form when he rides Marius Claudius and Gerry Maguire at the Aachen Super League Show which begins today.

As the only Briton in the top 10, he is a strong contender for a place in the European Show Jumping Championships to be held in Donaueschingen, Germany in August, which is also a goal for his fellow members in the Aachen squad - Damian Charles, Richard Davenport, Scott Smith and Michael Whitaker.

Smith was not sure how the nine-year-old Marius Claudius, who won a big class in Cannes last Thursday, would take to the huge arena at the German show, which horses often find spooky. He was therefore planning to jump the stallion in last night's warm-up class to give him an early look at it.

Michael Whitaker is "keeping an open mind" as to which of his two impressive Aachen mounts, Handel II and Landfurst, is the better prospect for a place in the European Championships. The 10-year-old Landfurst was runner-up in one of the big classes at Cannes before having a solitary error in the Grand Prix, which was won by Michael's brother, John Whitaker, on Luc Z.

The elder Whitaker's success will have been welcome news for Derek Ricketts, manager of the Great Britain team, who has recently lost two of the likely European Championship horses: It's Magic Max, who has been sold to Lord Harris of Peckham for a reputed £1m, and Tim Stockdale's mount, Fresh Direct Parcival, who is to have an operation on his stifle.

Lord Harris, formerly a staunch supporter of British riders, has sent his new purchase to Ireland's Peter Charles. "Losing It's Magic Max is a major blow," Ricketts said, "and when you think who bought him it's even more annoying."