Show jumping: Nustria foiled by Priamos prowess

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The Independent Online
Ludger Beerbaum, the iceman of international show jumping, demonstrated his renowned nerves of steel to perfection to win the Volvo World Cup qualifying round on P S Priamos here yesterday.

Drawn sixth of nine in the jump-off, Beerbaum had a formidable task to better the slick clear round of 39.60sec set by Peter Charles on Nustria, who looked a likely winner.

The Dutchman Bert Romp and Germany's Lars Nieburg - third and second respectively in the Western European league standings after 10 World Cup preliminary rounds - put in spirited challenges, on Burg's Mr Bleu and For Pleasure. Both were clear, and marginally faster than Charles, until falling foul of the final upright rails.

Beerbaum rode with relaxed confidence to pip Charles by 1.07sec without appearing to hurry. His compatriot, Franke Sloothaak, on the big impressive stallion San Patrignano Caffini, was also clear in a slower time but the Swiss Olympic silver medallist, Willi Melliger, could not repeat his first clear on Calvaro V, incurring eight faults.

The popular Geoff Billington, on Virtual Village Its Otto, carried domestic hopes well with a flamboyant clear round, and though a time of 40.61sec left them third, the crowd stamped and cheered as if they had won. Later, Billington admitted to being cross with himself for not going faster. "My horse can do anything," he said. "And the technique course suited us."

He felt he had let everyone down, but no one should mind being beaten by Beerbaum. Remarkably, the European champion was winning his first points of this World Cup series, but he intends to complete the remaining six rounds. He has been riding Priamos for 14 months, and while the 13- year-old gelding may lack the star quality of his mare, Ratina Z, he looks better and better in the champion's hands. "I'm having a great week," he said.

Beerbaum was back an hour later in the Snowman Top Score but failed to peg back John Whitaker on Virtual Village Randi.

A single mistake in the World Cup on Grannusch was disappointing for Whitaker who needs some top placings to qualify for the Volvo World Cup final in Helsinki next April.

The Christmas Carol Stakes, a speed and handiness contest was brilliantly won by Patrice Delaveau of France by 0.8 sec from James Fisher. Delaveau, who also won on Friday, hopes to add to his tally today and tomorrow in the speed classes as his mare Bernadotte is ideally suited for these classes and, like all the horses and riders on the show jumping circuit, she can then enjoy a "grand repos" after Olympia.