Michael Whitaker has secured a place at the FEI World Championships in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (26-30 April). Following a success at the final qualifier at Gothenburg this weekend (13-16 April), last year’s FEI runner-up will be representing Britain at the championships along with British Open Champion Robert Smith.

Whitaker’s performance this weekend demonstrated his resolve to claim a place at Kuala Lumpur. Leopoldo Palacios and Frank Rothenberger’s challenging course caught out the majority of the field, leaving Whitaker and Portofino as one of only nine combinations to contest the jump-off round. But Whitaker’s gritted determination almost led to his downfall. After making a particularly tight turn, he hit a bad stride approaching the double and Portofino put in a stop.

“She didn’t see so she had no chance.” Whitaker said afterwards. “Maybe I was stupid but I was trying to win.” Thankfully the mistake only relegated him to eighth and he was still awarded a place in the championships.

Meanwhile double FEI champion Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum was on flying form this weekend and will certainly be attempting a hat-trick of FEI World Cup titles at the end of the month. After winning at ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Holland three weeks ago, she secured another victory this weekend aboard Checkmate.

“Checkmate was phenomenal today,” she said afterwards. “He is a horse with an unbelievable talent and he has a lot of fun doing his job – and I have a lot of fun riding him while he is doing it!”

After an impressive jump-off time of 32.37 sec, the only person who could stop Michaels-Beerbaum from winning was Britain’s Robert Whitaker. Partnering Lacroix, the young talent jumped a brilliant round but an unfortunate four penalties at the final fence relegated him to seventh position. Maria Gretzer finished second, Jean Marc Nicolas third and fourth place went to Linnea Ericsson.

Riders competing in Kuala Lumpur as of 17 April 2005:

1. Robert Smith (GBR)
2. Gerco Schroder (Ned)
3. Marcus Ehning (Ger)
4. Beat Mandli (Sui)
5. Jessica Kuerten (Irl)
6. Juan Carlos Garcia (Ita)
7. Jean-Marc Nicolas (Fra)
8. Markus Beerbaum (Ger)
9. Rolf-Goran Bengtsson (Swe)
10. Ludger Beerbaum (Ger)
11. Philippe Leoni (Fra)
12. Heinrich Hermann Engemann (Ger)
13. Michael Whitaker (GBR)
14. Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst (Ger)
15. Linnea Ericsson (Den)
16. Marco Kutscher (Ger)
17. Pia-Luise Aufrecht (Ger)
18. Geir Gulliksen (Nor)

Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum is automatically qualified as reigning champion.

For all information on the FEI World Cup Jumping final in Kuala Lumpur (26-30 April) log onto the website: www.klworldcupfinal.com.

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