Equestrianism: Whitaker still thriving despite Olympic heartbreak

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The Independent Online

Ellen Whitaker proved her competitive spirit was sharpened rather than blunted by disappointment when she gained her second international victory since being omitted from the Olympic team. In the process of winning the Stoner Jeweller's Vase on the second day of the British Jumping Derby Meeting, she had the satisfaction of defeating Ben Maher and Tim Stockdale (second and fourth respectively) who were both named for the Olympic team on Wednesday.

As on Thursday, Whitaker's winning mount was Cortaflex Kanselier, who has been with her for seven years – since she was 15 and he was 10. Her time looked unbeatable but 25-year-old Maher came unexpectedly close, finishing just 0.48sec adrift on his new mount, Robin Hood, with whom he won the small grand prix in Rotterdam last week.

Maher's Olympic partner, the mare Rolette, also impressed at the Dutch Super League Show, notably with two clear rounds for fourth place in the Longines Grand Prix.

"I realised she was really good when she won the Grand Prix in Mechelen last Christmas," Maher said. "She's jumped a lot of good rounds at Super League shows since then and she's never had more than eight faults."

Jo Pay won the later Bunn Leisure Derby Trial on Randi's Gold and thus confirmed the horse's liking for Hickstead's spacious international arena. Pay will not, however, be riding him in tomorrow's DFS Derby because she is anxious to preserve the 12-year-old's enthusiasm and energy for the rest of the season, especially as she has acquired the ride on a second good horse in Goodman's For Fun and is hoping to take both mounts abroad.

"It's very tempting to take Randi's Gold in the Derby," she said, after winning with the only clear round, "but he tried his heart out for me today and I feel he's done enough." Her first attempt at this annual marathon will, therefore, have to wait another year.

British Jumping Derby Meeting (Hickstead, Sussex): Stoner Jeweller's Vase: 1 Cortaflex Kanselier (E Whitaker, GB) clear, 62.40; 2 Robin Hood (B Maher, GB) clear, 62.88; 3 Safana (M Armstrong, GB) clear, 66.13. Bunn Leisure Derby Trial: 1 Randi's Gold (J Pay, GB) clear in 1st round; 2 Refallo (G Wilson, NZ) 1 Fault; 3 Retreats Upper Cut (C Robertson, GB) 4 faults.