Equestrianism: No slip-ups as Neilson speeds to youth crown on Ungaro

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The Independent Online

Daniel Neilson had the veterinary expertise of Andy Bathe to thank for his participation in yesterday's Accenture Young Show Jumper contest at the London International Horse Show, since it was touch and go as to whether his 10-year-old mount Ungaro would be fit for the test.

Neilson, 17, had parted company with the horse when jumping-off at the Scope Festival at Stafford in September. After a few flat-out gallops around the arena, Ungaro spotted a gap at the exit and went for it, only to injure himself, slipping twice on concrete.

The recovery programme involved box rest, followed by walking out in order to stretch the scar tissue and then a couple of small shows to get tuned up. Neilson, who has boxed and played football at county level, then gave his mount the smoothest possible ride for two clear rounds here and victory over Sophie Strawson on Parlinus by a 1.27sec.

Neilson, who grew up near Whitby where his father was a miner, is now based in Essex with Jason Moore and his wife, Katriona, who is chef d'equipe of the British pony team.

They invited Neilson to train with them after he had won the individual gold medal at the 2006 Pony European Championships.

The arrangement has proved ideal, not least because they live in Frank Bruno's old house where the facilities afford Neilson ample opportunity for fitness training including sparring two or three times a week. Having won the individual silver medal at last year's Junior European Championships, Neilson, who is blessed with a clear focus, now has his sights set on going one better in 2008.

Later Michael Whitaker suffered the same fate as his nephew, Robert, who had jumped into the lead in the Grand Prix on Thursday night before being beaten by a split second.

Michael, riding Insultech Mozart des Hayettes, had to concede defeat to Denmark's Thomas Velin, the last rider into yesterday's jump-off for the Christmas Cracker, who was 0.16sec faster on Godsend du Reverdy. Austria's Julia Kayser filled third place on HBC Dancing Queen.