Whitaker and Skelton triumph

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The Independent Online
John Whitaker and Nick Skelton celebrated their new sponsorship deal when they won yesterday evening's two contests at the Olympia Show Jumping Championships.

Whitaker, last to go in the Christmas Turkey Stakes on Virtual Village Grannusch, comfortably defeated the two Dutch riders, Bert Romp and Jan Tops. Skelton had a narrower success over Nigel Coupe when he won the Christmas Stocking Stakes on the stallion, Virtual Village Quick Star.

Paul Darragh's fortunes, which revived when he began riding horses owned by King Hussein of Jordan's daughter, hit another high note yesterday when he won the earlier Christmas Stocking Stakes.

The Irishman was riding Scandal, an eight-year-old Australian-bred mare bought by Princess Haya in January. "She likes the name, she thought every princess should have a Scandal," Darragh said.

The mare (who is like "a little rubber ball" according to Darragh) may not be the most likely of Princess Haya's horses to fulfil her dream of competing in the Sydney Olympics. Scandal nevertheless put up a great performance yesterday when Darragh defeated Michael Whitaker on Virtual Village Ashley by 1.82sec. Germany's world champion, Franke Sloothaak, filled third place on San Patrignano Weihaiwej.

The three-day event rider Pippa Funnell teamed up with William, her show-jumping husband, to win the inaugural Petplan Family Pairs Relay. They might have been beaten by John Whitaker's teenagers, Louise and Robert, but they incurred an eight second penalty for downing two fences, which left them in third place.

Though Pippa Funnell has been a "rosette girl" at Olympia for about eight years, this was the first time that she has competed at the show. "It was nearly as frightening as Badminton," she said. "I was terrified of letting the side down." She was nevertheless clear on The Tourmaline Rose - as was William on Comex - to give the couple a polished win.

OLYMPIA SHOW JUMPING CHAMPIONSHIPS (Kensington, London): Christmas Candle Stakes: 1 Scandal XX (P Darragh, Irl) clear, 52.94sec; 2 Virtual Village Ashley (M Whitaker, GB) clear, 54.76; 3 San Patrignano Weihaiwej (F Sloothaak, Ger) clear, 55.98. Petplan Family Pairs Relay: 1 The Tourmaline Rose (P Funnell) and Comex (W Funnell) 66.26; 2 Arron (A Bradley) and Gordons Twist (M Jones) 69.93; 3 Cowboy Magic Deep Heat (L Whitaker) & Silver Cinders (R Whitaker) 70.83. Christmas Turkey Stakes: 1 Virtual Village Grannusch (J Whitaker, GB) clear, 35.31; 2 Burg's Samantha (B Romp, Neth) clear, 36.83; 3 Operette la Silla (J Tops, Neth) clear, 38.37. Christmas Stocking Stakes: 1 Virtual Village Quick Star (N Skelton, GB) 47.72; 2 Europe K (N Coupe, GB) 48.40; 3 Trudo Jannique (L Philippaerts, Bel) 48.53.