Little to show for mediocre Britain

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The Independent Online
Though Michael Whitaker was the leading rider at the Dublin Horse Show, which ended on Saturday, there was not much encouragement to be gleaned for British supporters from the closing Grand Prix. The French riders, Patrice Delaveau and Michel Robert, filled the top two places while none of the British competitors reached the jump-off.

Ronnie Massarella, the British team manager, had been heartened by the Nations Cup performance in which Britain finished 0.25 of a fault behind Ireland's winning team. But the Grand Prix performances of the British riders looked mediocre.

Michael Whitaker, who collected 22 of his 24 leading rider points in speed classes with Everest My Mesieur, was sixth (and best of the British) in the Grand Prix. His single error at the difficult treble with Midnight Madness was a reasonable effort - as was William Funnell's round on Comex, who had one jumping mistake and half a time fault.

But the two errors from both John Whitaker on Grannusch and Nick Skelton on Showtime did little to suggest that Britain has the right sort of horsepower to win the European team title at St Gallen in Switzerland next month - or the Olympic gold medals next year.

The French had a far more encouraging finale to the Dublin meeting. Delaveau is clearly getting the right tune from Roxane de Gruchy, with whom he jumped the winning clear round. Robert, the individual silver medallist at last year's World Equestrian Games, has a bright new prospect in the mare, Degina.

Robert had expected to be confined to smaller shows after losing the horses that he rode for San Patrignano, but Degina has progressed more swiftly than he thought possible. The 10-year-old has had four foals and was a late starter in show jumping, but she has taken to the sport with alacrity.

A strong Irish contingent for the Silk Cut Derby meeting at Hickstead next Sunday was to have included Heather Blaze, with whom Robert Splaine won the King George V Gold Cup last month. But that triumph was followed by disaster when the grey mare fell at the water in the Dublin Grand Prix and broke her near foreleg. The vets had no alternative but to put her down.