Skelton's favourite mare sold

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Nick Skelton has lost the ride on Dollar Girl, the 16-year-old mare he rode in the 1995 and 1996 Volvo World Cup finals in which he finished first and third.

The unwelcome news was sprung on Skelton at the Olympia Show Jumping Championships by the mare's Swiss owner, Joe Haller. Dollar Girl has been sold to Alfonso Romo, a Mexican entrepreneur, and, according to Haller, she will be retired to stud having won more than pounds 1.2m in her career.

Skelton was understandably depressed when he talked about his favourite mount yesterday. "She's been my best horse for the last four years. We will all miss her at home," he said. "It's sickening that I wasn't given the chance to buy her myself."

Dollar Girl finished fifth in Saturday's Volvo World Cup qualifier after a single jump-off error. The victor was Robert Smith, whose masterpiece of opportunistic riding on Tees Hanauer received a great roar of approval from the capacity crowd.

Smith knew the 16-year-old well enough to avoid making a short turn to the third jump-off fence but he felt confident in taking a spectacular flyer to the last and the horse sailed over it to defeat Belgium's Ludo Philippaerts on Trudo King Darco by 0.42sec.

This was the first time that the 35-year-old son of Harvey Smith has won a World Cup class. Achieving it at home could, Smith hopes, attract the sponsorship that he is urgently seeking.

Smith may now decide to take in a few of the Continental World Cup shows in an attempt to qualify for the final, which starts in Gothenburg at the end of April. So far Michael Whitaker, who was third on Saturday with Virtual Village Ashley, is the only Briton with sufficient points to be sure of a place.

Whitaker was delighted with eight-year-old Ashley but, if he rides this talented young horse in the World Cup final, it will only be in one of the three legs.

Both Michael Whitaker (on the stallion Elton) and Bert Romp from the Netherlands (on Burg's Samantha) gained their first wins of the meeting yesterday. Romp had been runner-up on no less than three occasions.

Results, Sporting Digest,

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