Too Smart just clever enough

Genevieve Murphy believes that Get Smart's successor can help Karen Dixon to her best finish at the Badminton Three-Day Event which starts tomorrow

Karen Dixon says that she would like to finish in the top 10 (for the sixth time) when she rides Too Smart at the Badminton Three-Day Event, which begins tomorrow in Avon.

It seems a modest aspiration for the second (and more talented) of Dixon's two Badminton partners. But it is a racing certainty that the 30-year- old rider's thoughts have sometimes strayed towards having the Mitsubishi Trophy on her sideboard and the record first prize of £22,250 in her pocket.

Too Smart is a wonderfully nimble nine-year-old gelding who gained many admirers when he won the Punchestown Three-Day Event in Ireland and the British Championship at Gatcombe last year, and went on to finish third at Burghley.

The little horse looks the obvious successor to Dixon's 15-year-old warrior, Get Smart, with whom she won team gold and individual bronze medals at last year's World Equestrian Games. The older horse remains at home in Co Durham this week, though he remains a lively contender for the British team at September's European Open Championships in Italy.

In his place, Dixon is riding two newcomers at Badminton. The first, Hot Property, a 10-year-old gelding, will do his dressage test tomorrow morning - almost certainly with some reluctance. The grey horse finds this phase a bore; as soon as he catches sight of the dressage arena Dixon can almost hear him sigh. It makes her spirits flag a little, too, because she knows that she will have to work extra hard as a result. The sight of a cross-country fence has completely the opposite effect, however, and Hot Property will be raring to have a go at Hugh Thomas's 30 demanding obstacles on Saturday.

Too Smart is equally thrilled by the cross-country, but then he finds pretty well everything exciting - including the dressage that he will be performing on Friday afternoon. "The great thing about him is that he always tries to please," Dixon said. "Even when he's trotting on air with excitement, I know he wants to do the right thing. It makes a change from Get Smart, who more or less tells me to get stuffed when he's feeling like that."

In fact, Dixon's biggest problem may come just before the cross-country on Saturday when her husband, Andrew, tries to tighten Too Smart's girths. This is the one moment that the horse loathes. "It's a desperate struggle to try to do up his girths without any of us getting eaten," Dixon said.

She is longing to ride Too Smart over the cross-country course. "He's very bold, but he's also a sharp little fellow who gets his feet out of the way quickly," she said. Having cruised round the big course at Burghley last year, Too Smart should be ready for this challenge and he could well be among the leaders as they go into the final show jumping phase on Sunday.

The quick-footed bay horse is normally careful in the show jumping, but he has been known to have the odd fence down. To prepare Too Smart for this phase, Dixon stopped off in Yorkshire on her way to Badminton yesterday so that she could have a lesson with the show-jumping rider and trainer, Graham Fletcher.

Though she has a splendidly consistent record at Badminton, having ridden Get Smart to clear cross-country rounds in all his six runs there, Dixon has yet to finish higher than fifth in the annual classic. That was with Get Smart in 1988, the year that she was selected for the Olympics and first rode for a senior British team.

Dixon is not tempting fate by suggesting that she might do better this time. When asked who was the likely recipient of the Mitsubishi Trophy, she had no need to pause for thought. "Todd," she said, promptly and succinctly. Mark Todd and his two horses, Just an Ace or Bertie Blunt, have both been in tremendous form this spring. The prediction does not mean that she or her three team-mates from the World Games - Mary Thomson, Charlotte Bathe and Kristina Gifford - intend to let the New Zealander get away from them lightly. "Mary must stand a good chance with King William, I hope we all go well," Dixon said.

If she goes well on Too Smart it will be further proof that her mother, Elaine Straker, has a wonderful eye for a horse. She spotted him when he was a two-year-old, grazing in a field among a group of 10 horses, and she knew that she had to buy him. Then a rotund two-year-old, Too Smart has been known by the stable name of Barrel ever since. Though he lacks the experience of Get Smart, the little Barrel could prove to be even more talented than his stable companion - and you can't get much smarter than that.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Neil Pavier: Management Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...

Laura Norton: Project Accountant

£50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?