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Belarus Rider Makes History To Lie Second In Rankings
Minsk, Belarus

Viachaslau Poita (BLR) made history for his country of Belarus when he scored a first home win in the FEI World Cup Eventing qualifier at Minsk and shot into second place in the FEI World Cup Rankings.

Riding Energiya, the same mare on which he was runner-up in the Moscow FEI World Cup qualifier in June and completed the FEI World Equestrian Games in Aachen last year, the 26-year-old full-time rider was best across country to grab the spoils.

Poita was only 13th after dressage, but he rose to the top of the field of 17 after the influential cross-country phase, in which there were only five clears and eight completions, and held on to his lead despite 11 penalties in the final jumping phase (76.8pen).

Elena Tseliapushkina (BLR) was a close second on Passat (77.8), while the dressage leader, Miroslav Iliev (BUL) on Markiz, finally finished sixth, having added 44.4 time penalties to a dressage score of 51.39 and two show jumps down.

Poita, described by ground jury president Sue Stewart (GBR) as: "a talented rider", has been training in Britain with Angela Tucker, a four-star judge and former international rider. Belarus's sports minister, who attended the event, made a speech thanking the British federation for its help in training riders from his country.

The competition, which was televised nationally, was held on an old Olympic training site, which is in the process of a complete government-funded redevelopment, with a cross-country course designed by Christian Zehe (GER).

"It was a lovely course," commented Andy Griffiths (GBR), the technical delegate and FEI Eventing Committee member with responsibility for the development of the sport in Eastern Europe. "There was a good variety of fences and the course was on a comparable level of difficulty with Western Europe, if not more difficult."

Sue Stewart, who will be judging at the European Championships in Pratoni del Vivaro (ITA) in September, commented: "They've made amazing progress since I was here judging last year, and they've got some lovely horses here in Belarus. The cross-country was quite undulating, which is why there were so many time penalties, but many of the faults came from the horses simply being very bold."

Oliver Townend (GBR) still leads the 2006-08 FEI World Cup rankings on 176 points, though Poita has considerably closed the gap with his 160. Jonathan Holling (USA) is third on 138 points, with one more USA qualifier to go, Kalispell (July 27-29). Then the World Cup action returns to Europe, Schenefeld (GER, August 2-5), which will be the final selection trial for Germany before the European Championships.

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