Equestrianism: Whitaker is forced to pull out of British team

Her stallion, AK Locarno, is making good progress after the fever that prevented his participation in last week's European Show Jumping Championships in Italy, but he is not yet ready for the Hickstead challenge.

"We're just pleased that he's got through it and is getting better. At one point we thought he was going to die," Carole Whitaker, Ellen's mother, said.

Ellen, 19, is currently competing at the Royal Lancashire show on other horses. She would like to take Kanselier to Hickstead to compete in Sunday's Queen Elizabeth II Cup, an annual classic for women riders, but the horse has not been properly prepared for the event and the decision has therefore been delayed until this afternoon.

John and Robert Whitaker, Ellen's uncle and cousin, are in the British squad for Hickstead, together with Nick Skelton, Mark Armstrong and Scott Smith. They will be hoping to repeat last year's victory in tomorrow's Samsung Super League Nations Cup. Britain is now lying fourth in the series - only 1.5pts behind Switzerland, who hold a narrow lead over the United States and Germany.

Ireland are seventh of the eight Super League nations and they are anxious to gain some ground that will reduce the threat of relegation when the series ends in Barcelona in September. They are strengthened by the return of Cian O'Connor, who competes at Hickstead having completed the three-month suspension that was imposed after his horse tested positive to forbidden substances at the Athens Olympic Games and the rider was stripped of his individual gold medal.

However, there is potentially damaging strife in the Irish camp, with Jessica Kurten refusing to jump alongside O'Connor in the Irish team.

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