Equestrianism: Stockdale profits from his late invitation

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The Independent Online

Tim Stockdale made the best possible use of his late invitation to the Olympia Show Jumping Championships when he rode Fresh Direct Glenwood Springs to win the Martin Collins Seconds Added Stakes during yesterday's opening session. Maria Gretgzer, of Sweden, would have beaten him, but for incurring a four-second penalty when Ricarda lowered one fence to finish in second place.

Stockdale received his late call to Olympia 12 days ago when the show director, Simon Brooks-Ward, rang him at nine o'clock on a Monday morning and told him to get himself ready. "I would have been distraught if I hadn't got here, but I always thought I would make it," Stockdale said. His chance came, as he had anticipated, when a couple of overseas riders dropped out.

Had he attempted all the short cuts over yesterday's twisty course, Stockdale reckoned that he would simply confuse the horse. So, after three short turns over the early part of the course, he took a more direct route on Glenwood Springs and was rewarded with a winning clear round. The horse, who is a speed specialist, has won around £110,000 since Stockdale took over the ride five years ago - at which time his total prize-money had amounted to a modest £275.

Stockdale's top mount, Parcival, has been out through injury, but he is now back in work and should rejoin the circuit soon. Meanwhile the British rider will rely on Jerome for Sunday's World Cup Qualifier, which is the major contest of the Olympia meeting.

While Pippa Funnell was collecting yet another award - this time by becoming the British Equestrian Writers' Association Personality of the Year - her husband, William, rode Cortaflex Machiavelli to win the Welcome Speed Stakes.

Richard Davenport had failed to qualify for the show, but he was nevertheless here to talk about his good fortune in being chosen to ride for Team Sony Ericsson. He joins Markus Fuchs of Switzerland, Marcus Ehning (Germany), Maria Gretzer (Sweden) and Jerry Smit (Italy) and is the first Briton to be part of the team. "It's a fantastic opportunity to be with those riders," Davenport said. "They're a good bunch of people and very professional, we'll be helping each other." At 23, Davenport is the youngest rider in the team.