Equestrianism: Whitaker's Amai displays London potential with Grand Prix victory

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The Independent Online

Michael Whitaker appeared to have a bright star of the future in his stable when he rode Beatrice Mertens Amai to win yesterday's Grand Prix on the closing day of the Royal Windsor Horse Show.

This was a first grand prix contest for the eight-year-old, who was last to go in the nine-horse jump-off. "I would have slowed down if he seemed to be struggling, but he made it feel easy," Whitaker said. So he accelerated gently and the horse responded with alacrity, completing a clear round to beat William Funnell's leading time on his homebred Cortaflex Billy Birr by 2.17sec. Third place went to Duncan Inglis, whose Sunkist completed the only other clear round of the jump-off.

Whitaker will be jumping Amai, grandson of the great Belgian sire Darco, in Antwerp and Rome this month, but he won't be contesting the major classes on this exciting London 2012 prospect. Stablemates Suncal Portofino and Insultech Wonami will tackle the bigger courses while the younger Amai continues his education.

Funnell's Billy Birr, who is producing more consistent performances now that he is 10, could also be a 2012 candidate. He has scope in plenty and, according to Funnell, has become more controllable. Billy Birr and Mondriaan (winner of the Eindhoven Derby with Funnell eight days ago) will be competing in Madrid this weekend.