Equestrianism: Wathelet edges out best of British

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The Independent Online

Gregory Wathelet's talents must have been well known to a small group of supporters at the British Jumping Derby meeting here, since the 24-year-old Belgian was backed down from 25-1 to 8-1 before he rode Hugo Gesmeray to win yesterday's Osborne Refrigerators Derby Trial.

He did not have to hurry to defeat Britain's Tim Stockdale, the first to go in the two-horse jump-off, who went for a deliberate clear round on the grey mare Fresh Direct Cloudy Night.

Wathelet, winner of La Baule Derby in April, looked impressive when jumping clear to defeat Stockdale by 8.22sec. The Briton was nevertheless delighted with his two clear rounds on Cloudy Night, who went well enough in her first Hickstead Derby here last year to encourage him to concentrate her preparation on a serious attempt at winning the £30,000 first prize on offer tomorrow.

"She's very hot and quite sharp, with masses of power," Stockdale said of the mare, who has been schooled over his own copies of Derby fences at home. "If I'd gone fast today, I could have undone the work for Sunday."

Earlier Ellen Whitaker rode AK Kanselier to a swift attacking round to defeat her uncle, Michael Whitaker, on Up to Date, by a cool 2.98sec.