Lalique's slick success sets tone for Skelton

Nick Skelton collected prizes in the first three classes of The Horse Show, as the inaugural international fixture here is known, and promptly described the meeting as an excellent addition to the calendar.

Nick Skelton collected prizes in the first three classes of The Horse Show, as the inaugural international fixture here is known, and promptly described the meeting as an excellent addition to the calendar.

This was Skelton's first visit to the attractive venue, which has been the long-time home of the Essex County Show, and he wasted no time in recording his first win here by riding Lalique to the fastest clear round of the Great Leighs Gamble Two Phase. This was the nine-year-old mare's biggest win so far. Skelton also took two runner-up prizes - on the Olympic mare Showtime in the Pavilion Premier Two Phase and on the enormously impressive nine-year-old Braveheart in theInternational Trial.

The latter was a national contest with a high-class field and it provided one of the hottest jump-offs of the season, with Robert Smith winning by a whisker on seven-year-old Senator Grand Cru. Michael Whitaker, who finished behind Skelton in third place on Virtual Village Hilton was just 0.46sec behind the winner.

Smith has been bringing Grand Cru on slowly for the last two years, but yesterday he made a determined bid with a racing round against the clock. He says that the horse is as good but faster than Athos du Vallot, who had looked like an Olympic prospect this year until sustaining an injury that has put him out of contention for Sydney.

Dermot Lennon recorded a win for the large Irish contingent, who have come here on the recommendation of Michael Whitaker's stable jockey, Billy Twomey. They will not have been disappointed in the spacious flower-decked ring and the excellent going.

Twomey and Lennon are among the Irish riders to have jumped double clear rounds in Nations Cups this year. Remarkably, Ireland has now won six of these team contests to hold the lead in the Samsung series, with Twomey contributing to two of these successes - at Modena, in Italy, and Lummen, in Belgium.

THE HORSE SHOW (Great Leighs, Essex): Great Leighs Gamble Two Phase: 1 Lalique (N Skelton, GB) clear, 34.49sec; 2 Lauren II (J Popely, GB) clear, 35.44; 3 Virtual Village Randi (R Whitaker, GB) clear, 35.66. Pavilion Premier Two Phase: 1 Dow Jones Courcel (D Lennon, Irl) clear, 34.51secs; 2 Showtime (N Skelton, GB) 35.06; 3 Llanarmon (R Bevis, GB) clear, 36.80. International Trial: 1 Senator Grand Cru (R Smith, GB) clear, 37.50sec; 2 Braveheart (N Skelton, GB) clear, 37.57; 3 Virtual Village Hilton (M Whitaker, GB) clear, 37.96.

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