Ellen Whitaker and Locarno finished third in the FEI World Cup qualifier in Helsinki, Finland this weekend (21-22 October).

The 20-year-old, who won the Speed Horse of the Year contest at the Horse of the Year Show earlier this month, produced a foot-perfect double clear to finish behind Switzerland’s Beat Mandli and Holland’s Gerco Schroder.

There were an astonishing 17 clears in the first round of the competition, the second leg of the 2006/7 jumping series.

The jump off course was twisty and up-to-height but first to go Jos Lansink from Belguim jumped clear with Hamilton de Perhet, setting a 40.28 sec target time. But next in the arena WEG team gold medallist Gerco Schroder from Holland immediately outpaced Lansink’s score, racing home in 37.50 sec. His score put pressure on the rest of the field: British newcomer Gemma Plumley and Sweden’s Malin Baryard-Johnsson both had one fence down and Patrick McEntee and Peter Wylde jumped clear but failed to threaten Schroder’s lead.

British spirits reached a low ebb when Robert Smith and Kalusha were eliminated but moral was boosted as Ellen Whitaker and Locarno produced a 37.58 sec clear to take second place.

Whitaker held onto second place until Beat Mandli and Ideo du Thot, third at the FEI World Cup Jumping final in Kuala Lumpur in April, stormed into the lead with an unbeatable 36.76 sec jump off time. Mandli’s score pushed Schroder into second with Ellen Whitaker in third.

“With 17 clears in the first round it was always going to be difficult to win,” the Swiss rider said afterwards. “My horse is very careful and quick off the ground so he’s good at jumping indoors and he’s in great shape right now.”

Beat Mandli now tops the World Cup Jumping leader board with Rene Tebbel in second and Eugenie Angot in third. Ellen Whitaker is the highest ranked British rider, currently lying in eighth place.

The next leg of the FEI World Cup™ 2006/2007 series takes place in Verona, Italy on 12 November.

Results

1st Beat Mandli SUI Ideo du Thot 0/0 36.76
2nd Gerco Schroder NED Eurocommerce Milano 0/0 37.50
3rd Ellen Whitaker GBR Locarno 62 0/0 37.58
4th Peter Wylde USA Quo Vadis 0/0 37.80
5th Eugenie Angot FRA Ilostra Dark 0/0 38.23
6th Christian Ahlmann GER Lorenzo 208 0/0 39.01