Bassett defends her title in style

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The Independent Online
Karen Bassett yesterday retained the national title for horse teams when she drove her team of four dark brown Trakehners to victory in the National Carriage Driving Championships.

It was a rather more satisfying success than last year when she won after George Bowman was forced to retire on the marathon section after one of his Cumberland cobs slipped up in a hazard. This time she beat the great Cumbrian driver on time through all but one of the eight hazards on Saturday and so thwarted his attempt to win his 18th national title.

There was a bizarre delay of 14 minutes during the horse-teams section of the marathon, when a live grenade was made safe by a controlled explosion. Other grenades from World War II have recently been found in Windsor Great Park and the disposal unit was on the alert for this one, which was discovered in a container that was being used to dredge a lake.

Once the grenade was dealt with, Bassett drove through the hazards at spectacular speeds, taking over the lead from Bowman, who had held the advantage after Friday's dressage. Bassett had thought that the hazards were too tight and trappy but, having driven through them, she changed her tune.

"The tighter they are the better they go," she said of the horses. "They listened to me the whole way." Her spoken instructions were simple: "Come" meant turn right, "Get" meant go left, and "Forwards" was the command to go straight ahead.

Bassett had only 4.6 points in hand at the start of yesterday's obstacle driving, but Bowman increased that by the five penalties he incurred for displacing a cone. Bassett also had one error, at the last of the 15 cones when victory was already in the bag.

Georgina Frith also repeated last year's success when she won the title for pony teams.

Results, Digest, page 19