Equestrianism: Whitaker discards flawed Gem

Two of the world's most gifted show-jumping riders, Rodrigo Pessoa, of Brazil, and Ludger Beerbaum, of Germany, proved themselves in sparkling form in the run up to the Olympic Games by filling the top two places in yesterday's RWE Preis von Nordrhein-Westfalen on the third day of the Aachen Super League Show here in Germany.

Pessoa triumphed on Baloubet du Rouet, who will be his mount in Athens, overtaking Beerbaum on Gladdys by 0.33sec.

Beerbaum has still to decide whether Gladdys or Goldfever, with whom he had already gained a first and second prize here this week, should be his partner in the Olympics. He will not, however, learn anything new today as he has been left out of the German team that is contesting the Samsung Super League Nations Cup. With Beerbaum's place secure, the German selectors want to look at other horse-and-rider combinations before naming their Olympic quartet.

John Whitaker, who had come here with the intention of riding Gem of India for Britain's Nations Cup team, has had a change of plan. Having jumped so well when runner-up in the Geesteren Grand Prix in the Netherlands on Sunday, Gem of India has failed to produce his best form in the daunting Aachen arena with its big crowded stands.

Gem had another disappointing round yesterday when lowering the middle element of the treble at fence six, stopping at fence seven and incurring four time penalties for a total of 12 faults. Whitaker has therefore switched to the French-bred Exploit de Roulard, who jumped a clear round here on Tuesday, for today's team contest.

Robert Smith will be first to go for Britain on Marius Claudius, with Whitaker second. They will be followed by Scott Smith on Cabri d'Elle and Nick Skelton on Russel.

On current form the British quartet could be hard pressed to make much impression against some powerful teams that include most of the Olympic favourites.

Notwithstanding the absence of Beerbaum, the Germans should be hard to beat on their home ground. The French team also looks formidable.

AACHEN SUPER LEAGUE SHOW (Germany): RWE Preis von Nordrhein-Westfalen: 1 Baloubet du Rouet (R Pessoa, Bra) clear, 38.14; 2 Gladdys (L Beerbaum, Ger) clear, 38.47; 3 Castle Forbes Maike (J Kurten, Irl) 4 faults, 42.20. Dressage Grand Prix: 1 Rusty (U Salzgeber, Ger) 75.833%; 2 Gestion Salinero (A Van Grunsven, Neth) 75.417%; 3 Weltall VA (M Schaudt, Ger) 74.375%. GB: 15 Ballaseyr Royale (R Davison) 68.708%. Teams: 1 Germany; 2 The Netherlands; 3 US; 4 Denmark; 5 Sweden; 6 Spain; 7 Great Britain; 8 Switzerland.