Pair of stars soak it all in

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:14 AM ET

Michael Whitaker had a little home field advantage.

As the rain fell before last night's $25,000 ATB Financial Cup at the Spruce Meadows National, Whitaker, an Englishman and his mount Laconda 25, were in their element on the wet, soggy turf in the International Ring.

Fittingly, the pair claimed the Cup, going clear in 60.37 seconds.

"Well, we've jumped here in the snow before, haven't we," said Whitaker with a laugh.

"But in England they say if you didn't ride in the rain, you'd never make any money."

He's pocketed plenty of cash over the years, earning more than $917,000 at Spruce Meadows alone, and with Laconda 25, a 10-year-old Westphalian mare, Whitaker's going to be taking a few more quid home with him.

He won $7,500 for his win in the ATB Financial Cup.

Last year, he won the British championship on Laconda 25, but then injured herself. This is her first competition since the injury.

"She bashed her leg and banged her head in the stable and she's been down all winter and now she's back again and I'm very pleased," said Whitaker, a four-time Olympian and two-time winner of the CN International at the Masters.

"She really likes it here. A lot of horses come in and they're intimidated by it all, but she seems to really like it out there."

American Richard Spooner, with his mount Bradford, grabbed second place with a time of 60.56.

Bernardo Alves, who earlier won the Enbridge Cup, took third on Fort Neuville de Joter in 61.96.

Oxford Mills, Ont.'s Jill Henselwood was the top Canadian, finishing fifth on Special Ed.

ALVES WELL: For the longest time, it looked like American Rich Fellers was going to take home the $25,000 Enbridge Cup at the National.

After going in the first phase, Fellers and McGuinness went clear in 47.68 seconds and rider after rider could not match the speed.

Then came Brazilian Bernardo Alves and his mount Corino, the third last pair in the 50-pair class.

They flew through the course, going fault-free in 46.82 seconds, capturing the $7,500 first-place money.

For Alves, an Olympian last year, it meant more winnings at Spruce Meadows, where he won the Queen Elizabeth Cup in 2004 on Conturo, his Olympic mount.

"I love competing here and I hope I can come back every year," said Alves, 30, after his win.

Corino is Alves' No. 2 horse, behind Conturo, but the speedy 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding will see its fair share of Grand Prix events.

"This horse is fast and can take tight turns," said Alves.

Finishing second and winning $4,300 was Norway's Geir Gulliksen, whose horse boasts a great name: Clear-Rounds Then Party.

Gulliksen clocked a clear round in 46.99, then probably went and had a couple of beers, while his mount no doubt indulged in some horse-like party favours.

Fellers was third and won $2,800.


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