Whitaker family enjoy triple luck

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Michael Whitaker and his elder brother, John, completed an excellent day for the family by taking first and second places in the Hasseroder Silver Salver on the opening day of the Hickstead Derby meeting.

Their 15-year-old niece, Ellen Whitaker, had already won the British Young Riders Championship, and John also had an earlier victory with Virtual Village Hunter's Level in the Scaynes Hill Speed Stakes.

The third Whitaker triumph followed Michael coming in last to jump on First Samuel, while his brother was in the lead on Hunter's Level. "He [First Samuel] was a bit sticky over the first few fences," Michael said of his miraculous triumph, "so I let him get going and then put my foot down." He did so with telling effect, beating his brother by 3.82 seconds, with Italy's Jerry Smit 8.64sec further back in third place.

Olivier Guillon's first visit to Hickstead got off to a splendid start when he won his first competition on the mare Baladine du Mesnil. The 29-year-old Frenchman, who was Young Riders European champion in 1993, showed no sign of being intimidated by the wide open spaces of the International arena when he sped round the jump-off course, comfortably overtaking Maria Gretzer of Sweden on Feliciano by a margin of 3.09sec.

Britain's Scott Smith then made a determined bid on his European Championship partner, Cabri d'Elle, who finished just 0.9sec behind the winner but took a plank off the final obstacle to finish in third place.

Guillon won the derbies in La Baule and Dinard last year with the 12-year-old stallion Banboula du Thot, but the dimensions of the Hickstead fences (which the Frenchman looked up on the internet) are considerably larger than at the French venues. He is therefore uncertain as to whether he will ride Banboula in Sunday's Peugeot Derby, whereas Baladine, who has more scope, is a definite starter – assuming she qualifies. Both horses will compete in today's Derby Trial.

It was a good result for Team Ericsson, whose six members include Guillon, Gretzer and Germany's Franke Sloothaak, who is billed as team leader and was fourth on Landdame. Guillon spent a year at Paul Schockemohle's yard in Germany when he was 20, which is where he met Sloothaak.

It proved a portentous meeting, for Sloothaak invited the Frenchman to join Team Ericsson when it was formed early last year. "I didn't sleep all night," Guillon said after this thrilling offer.

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