Michael Whitaker missed out on a place in the top four change-horse show jumping final at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen tomorrow when finishing eighth in today’s penultimate two-round competition with Insul Tech Portofino.

The top 25 horses and riders were tested to the limit today over two courses of colossal fences, and a single pole down for the British rider in the first round proved very costly. Portofino was jumping big and clean until catching the oxer at fence seven and although she never touched another pole, the mare completed with an additional two time faults. The British duo were foot-perfect at their second attempt but, lying 12th going into the final stages, were unable to catch the leaders.

For the first time in the history of the world show jumping championships, three women go forward to the final along with Belgium’s Jos Lansink. Australia’s Edwina Alexander steered the seasoned 15-year-old mare Isovlas Pialotta to a superb double clear to move up from over night 21st to earn her place. Lansink’s Cavalor Cumano continued to make it all look like a walk in the park as the big grey sailed over the immense tracks with apparent ease to join her.

The home crowd was ecstatic when Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum survived a single error at the water in the first round to stay in the race for Germany with Shutterfly while, completing a truly world-class line-up, long-time leader Beezie Madden, whose horse Authentic made his first mistake of the tournament when also getting his feet wet, completes the final-four line-up.

Only one woman has ever taken the coveted World Championship title — Canada’s Gail Greenough who came out on top in Aachen in 1986 — and all the talk around the arena tonight was about the possibility that tomorrow’s winner would be another female. Following yesterday’s competition, the three girls agreed that while their horses should be similar to ride, Lansink’s colossal grey could prove something of a challenge for them. The Belgian rider insisted that Cumano is ridden by a girl when working at home every day but the sheer size of the stallion is likely to create some interesting moments.