Equestrianism: Whitaker snatches late victory

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The Independent Online

Roger Whitaker continued to uphold his family’s big reputation when he rode Lacroix to win last night’s hoys.co.uk Cup at the Horse of the Year Show.

The son of John Whitaker, who had missed this show to compete for richer rewards in Athens, defeated 19-year-old Maikel van der Vleuten, who had led right from the start of the contest until Whitaker, drawn fourth from last, snatched victory from him by a comfortable 3.14sec. Irishman Shane Breen filled third place on World Cruise

William Funnell again underlined the wonderful rapport that he has now established with Cortaflex Amber du Montois when he rode the 17-year-old chestnut mare to victory in yesterday's Dick Turpin Stakes at the Horse of the Year Show. His flying round looked – and proved – unbeatable. Although Dutchman Henk van der Pol and Ireland's Billy Twomey achieved faster times, both had single errors. Two home riders, Tim Stockdale on Roland and Mark Armstrong on Sefana, were to fill second and third places.

Amber was once regarded as a talented but difficult mare but she has now become a model of consistency. Admittedly her style is still unorthodox, but her head is not stuck in the air nearly as often – and, most important of all, she frequently clears all the fences.

Knowing the mare so well is key for Funnell. "Before this show I last sat on her a couple of weeks earlier when she won the Renault final at Newbury," Funnell said. "That's not a problem now that I know where I am with her."

Next week Amber will be heading for the first of the European World Cup shows in Oslo, together with stable-companions Mondriaan and the home-bred Billy Birr. Nine-year-old Billy will probably be his mount for the World Cup qualifier. "It's time for him to come of age," Funnell said.

Laura Renwick and Beluga II, joint winners of the Senior Newcomers title here on Wednesday, added an outright victory in yesterday's KBIS British Six-Year-Old Equestrian Championship to their impressive tally.

Horse of the Year Show (NEC Birmingham): Dick Turpin Stakes: 1 Cortaflex Amber du Montois (W Funnell, GB) clear, 66.49sec; 2 Roland (T Stockdale, GB) clear, 68.61; 3 Sefana (M Armstrong, GB) clear, 71.56. KBIS British Equestrian Six-Year-Old Championship (national final): 1 Beluga II (L Renwick) clear, 36.64sec; 2 Univeau (P Miller) clear, 39.40; 3 Utopia Red (D Moseley) clear, 39.92.