Junior Whitakers seek the limelight

Louise Whitaker and her younger brother, Robert, will endeavour to keep the family name in the Horse of the Year Show limelight when they compete in the five-day meeting, which begins this morning at the Wembley Arena. Meanwhile their father, John, and uncle, Michael, will be seeking Olympic medals on the other side of the world.

Louise Whitaker and her younger brother, Robert, will endeavour to keep the family name in the Horse of the Year Show limelight when they compete in the five-day meeting, which begins this morning at the Wembley Arena. Meanwhile their father, John, and uncle, Michael, will be seeking Olympic medals on the other side of the world.

The 17-year-old Robert, who won four contests on the opening day of the Hickstead Derby meeting, had three further victories at this month's Festival of Show Jumping at Arena UK in Lincolnshire. In the process he came close to collecting a £20,000 bonus on offer from British Equestrian Insurance Brokers.

Whitaker was on line for this tempting reward after winning both the 1.40 metres jumping and the Gentlemen's Championship. He then needed to jump clear rounds on his own and his three opponents' horses en route to becoming the Champion Horseman. Though he won the title, a single dislodged pole on his last mount, Tim Stockdale's Traxdata Lift Off, robbed him of the bounty.

Whitaker, who rides two stallions, Randi and Steps Helsinki, and the mare Qualisca, is likely to give more mature riders further proof of his burgeoning talent this week. The Davenport brothers, Richard and James, will be among other young riders who will be looking to make their mark at Wembley.

Di Lampard will be hoping for a change of fortune at the end of a wretched year in which she sustained a groin injury and, after fighting her way back to full fitness, was surprisingly omitted from the Olympic team. As if that was not enough, she suffered yet another blow when her top horse, Abbervail Dream, twisted a fetlock at Rotterdam in late August, which meant missing the lucrative Calgary show in Canada.

Abbervail Dream, though back in work, is not yet ready to jump, so Lampard will be relying on Valentino and William's Spirit for Wembley. Valentino, owned jointly by Philip Rea and the British team manager Ronnie Massarella, won the Oxfordshire Area International Trial at the Thame Show last Thursday.

Other disappointed contenders for an Olympic place, notably Andrew Davies, Tim Stockdale and Robert Smith, will be looking for a substantial share of the £130,000 prize fund. They will also have an eye on the latest BEIB bonus offer, which has prizemoney starting at £20,000 for any rider who wins the Puisance on Saturday and the equestria.net Grand Prix on Sunday.

This may sound a tall order, but it is child's play compared with the conditions for claiming the £100,000 bonus, which require the rider to win the titles of Leading Show Jumper (Friday) and Speed Horse of the Year (Sunday) as well as the Puissance and Grand Prix.

Last year overseas riders had a profitable week, with Roelof Bril winning the Grand Prix. The Dutchman will be back to attempt a repeat performance, as will other 1999 winners, Billy Twomey (Ireland), Michel Hecart (France), Johann Philippaerts (Belgium) and HeinrichHermann Engemann (Germany).

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