Robert enjoys repeat success

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The Independent Online
Michel Robert, of France, and Stanny van Paesschen, of Belgium, repeated their opening day successes of the last Hickstead meeting in May, winning the first two contests of the Royal International Horse Show on the same two horses.

It was a long time to wait for the action replay. With contests in the main arena running 90 minutes late, evening shadows were lengthening by the time Robert collected his prize on Airborne Montecillo.

Nick Skelton, who had not jumped here for more than two years, looked as though he had made a triumphant return when he was fast and clear on Cathleen but two of the next three horses recorded faster times.

Another Briton, William Funnell, was the first to do so on Comex - but Robert was not to be outdone. He sped round to finish 0.51sec faster, leaving Funnell second and Skelton third.

Van Paesschen won the earlier West Sands International Chase on the consistent Capricieux des Six Censes. "He's fantastic and very careful, but he won't jump a combination if it's not right for him," the rider said of his 10-year-old mount.

Van Paesschen is the only competitor who will be on his Olympic partner, Mulga Bill, for tomorrow's King George V Gold Cup. Unlike the British and Germans, whose horses are already in Atlanta for acclimatisation, the Belgian show jumpers will not be leaving until 24 July - only five days before the compulsory qualifying competition. The Swiss horses are travelling on the same flight.

As Van Paesschen pointed out, horses make longer journeys to Calgary in Canada and Monterrey in Mexico shortly before the shows begin. "So the flight is nothing," he said.

The Belgian horses have worked on a treadmill at home, under simulated conditions of the heat and humidity in Atlanta. Mulga Bill, born and reared in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains in Australia, lost more weight than the other horses but he is a burly 17 hands, so he probably shed about the same percentage of his weight as the rest.

Three more sessions are planned in simulated Atlanta conditions - this time at a steady walk - before the Belgian horses face the real thing. Everyone will wait to see whether their late arrival will help or hinder them.

ROYAL INTERNATIONAL HORSE SHOW (Hickstead): West Sands Holidays July Stakes: 1 Airborne Montecillo (M Robert, Fr) clear, 45.94sec; 2 Comex (W Funnell, GB) clear, 46.45; 3 Cathleen (N Skelton, GB) clear, 47.79. West Sands Selsey International Chase: 1 Capricieux des Six Censes (S van Paesschen, Bel) 77.96sec; 2 Sir Michael (E Holstein, Irl) 81.47; 3 Cera (P Darragh, Irl) 81.57. Supreme Hunter Championship: Regal Max (A Hood); Reserve: Helicon (R Oliver).