Equestrianism: Whitaker relies on Fleur

Michael Whitaker and the 12-year-old mare Fleur will be under close scrutiny when they compete in the Dublin Horse Show which begins today at the Ballsbridge showground.

Whitaker's chances of being named for the European Show Jumping Championships, which start in two weeks' time at Donaueschingen in Germany, now rest entirely on Fleur, with whom he was reunited last month after a gap of four years.

Whitaker plans to ride the mare in the Super League Nations Cup on Friday, when he will be joined by Nick Skelton, Robert Smith and William Funnell. Unless there is a serious deluge beforehand, the quartet will be on their top horses.

Derek Ricketts, the Great Britain team manager, will be taking no chances however. "We won't field our best horses if the ground is bad," he said. "We don't want any injuries at this stage."

The Irish, represented by Robert Splaine, Kevin Babington, Cian O'Connor and Billy Twomey, look to have the strongest of the eight teams.

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