Power prevails as Ireland lead new challenge

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The Independent Online

Robert Power, the 18-year-old son of Ireland's former international rider Con Power, was fast and stylishly clear on Honnie when winning yesterday's Traxdata Speed Challenge on the opening day of the Royal Horse Show here.

Power spent 18 months with Peter Charles before moving to Essex last October to ride for Honnie's owners, Michael and Joan Bates. "He's a talented rider, I had faith he'd do well in his new job," Charles said.

Honnie, an 11-year-old Dutch-bred mare, won the final of the Foxhunter Championship some years ago when ridden by Duncan Inglis. Power won international classes with her at Navan last November and at the San Patrignano show in Italy in February.

Last to go in yesterday's contest, which was judged on faults and time in the first round, Power defeated another Irishman - Dermott Lennon on Garronturton Lady - with Robert Whitaker (the 17-year-old son of John) best of the British in third place on Virtual Village Randi.

Whitaker was also riding Randi last year, when winning a team gold medal at the Junior European Championships in Switzerland. He had his first senior international win with the grey stallion at Mauberge in France last month.

Michael Whitaker (Robert's uncle) was in no great hurry yesterday when he rode Virtual Village Calvaro to finish in eighth place. This stallion has been recovering from various problems, including a virus, since contesting last year's European Championships at Hickstead, where he may already have been under the weather. Yesterday he looked gleamingly fit when jumping an impressive clear round.

Few spectators would have been aware that this contest was the first to carry points towards the new Anglo-Irish Challenge. Even John Whitaker, one of the eight members of the British team, appeared to know nothing about it since he was at home when Ireland took an early 1.5 to 1 point lead over Britain. Hopefully the three remaining legs of the challenge will engender more enthusiasm than yesterday's opener.

Power had been named as reserve for the Irish team, so his win did not count towards the challenge in which (for this first leg only) half a point was awarded for each team rider in the top 10. Dermott Lennon (2nd), Paul Darragh (9th) and Peter Charles (10th) secured the 1.5pts for Ireland, with Di Lampard (7th) and Michael Whitaker (8th) collecting a point for Britain.