Derek Ricketts, the British show jumping team selector, has named Nick Skelton, with Arko III, and Robert Smith, with Mr. Springfield, as the two British representatives at the Athens Olympics. And his decision has incited the anger of Michael Whitaker, who thought he deserved to be selected with Portofino.
The three riders were the top contenders for the two individual spots, since Britain failed to qualify a team for Athens. They were to demonstrate their abilities in the Samsung Super League Nations Cups at La Baule (France), Rome (Italy), Lucerne (Switzerland) and Rotterdam (the Netherlands), which served as selection trials.
Skelton and Arko cemented their ticket with double-clear performances at La Baule and Rome, and a clear and four-fault score at Lucerne. Portofino and Whitaker didn’t jump at La Baule, but put in eight-fault and clear rounds at Rome, four- and five-fault rounds at Lucerne, and a brilliant double-clear at Rotterdam. Smith’s scores on Mr. Springfield were 0-16, 12-0, 0-4, and 4-4.
A bitterly disappointed Whitaker has since agreed to be in Athens as the reserve rider.
Portofino and Whitaker’s other top ride, Fleur, are owned by the Beverly Hills Equestrian Partners–the Saperstein family of California. American Ray Texel had the ride on their Fleur until the 2002 World Equestrian Games selection trials, where he also rode their Lexicon. After Texel failed to qualify for the WEG team on either horse, his partnership with the Sapersteins ended. Fleur went to Whitaker, while Helen McNaught took over Lexicon.