April 4, 2008

The all important first leg of the British Open Championship was fiercely fought by leading riders from Great Britain and abroad yesterday, at the 2008 British Open Show Jumping Championships.

The 2003 British Open Champion, Robert Whitaker, won the opening round of the prestigious four-day competition riding Lacroix 9. Robert jumped clear in 57.19 narrowly beating 20-year-old Dutch rider Maikel Van der Vleuten who had to settle for second place with a time 58.13. Irish rider Shane Breen achieved third place riding World Cruise in a time of 59.49.

The Championship continues until Saturday when a cut of the top 20 is made before Sunday's all important final. With John Whitaker (fourth in the first round), and Ellen, Michael and William all currently placed in the top 20.

• The brightest young names in show jumping also commenced battle to determine who would be crowned the World Class Development 'U23 Champion' 2008. To determine the starting order of the young riders' Championship, the riders jumped in the WCD Programme Pathfinder class, with all clear rounds going through to a jump-off against the clock. The winner, 20-year-old Lance Whitehouse from Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, riding My Boy, will now have the advantage of going last in the WCD Programme Championship competition and is one step closer to claiming the title.

This class provides a unique platform for potential equestrian stars to compete in an arena environment, on a professionally built course, in front of a large audience. This is a daunting prospect for the young riders, many of whom have yet to experience an event of this scale, but provides the perfect stepping stone to bridge the gap between national and international competitions.