Skelton closes on rare double

Nick Skelton rode the speedy mare, Sublime, to win yesterday's Silk Cut Derby Trial, defeating his long-standing friend and Olympic team-mate, Michael Whitaker on Touchdown, by a 2.29sec margin. Michel Robert, of France, filled third place on Degina.

Though Skelton has won the Silk Cut Derby on three occasions, this was his first success in the Trial. Only once has the same rider won the two competitions and that was back in 1979 when Eddie Macken completed the double for Ireland.

Skelton is not, however, bothered about the so-called jinx. "It shouldn't be a problem," he said, with a grin, after his victory. If he can win tomorrow on either Sublime or Cathleen (with whom he completed a slow clear round in yesterday's jump-off) Skelton will collect the plum prize of pounds 40,000 and become the fourth rider to win the Derby four times.

Whitaker will also be riding two horses tomorrow - both of them borrowed. James Kernan's stallion Touchdown, with whom he was first into yesterday's jump-off, achieved two clear rounds and was impressive except for some ominous dithering on the 10ft 6in Derby Bank.

His second mount was Gammon, normally ridden by either his brother, John, or his niece, Louise. Michael had his first ride on Gammon yesterday morning, when he jumped six fences in an outside arena on the 18-year- old gelding.

He then jumped a clear round in the Derby Trial and, having lowered the second jump-off fence, had a quiet school over the rest of the course.

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