Bradley heads British assault

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The Independent Online
Alison Bradley will have her first ride in the senior European Show Jumping Championships when she partners the nine-year-old stallion, Endeavour, in the three-part competition which begins with today's speed section.

Bradley, 25, will go first for the British team and she is quite relaxed about that. "It's better going first, then I don't have to sit around and worry about it," she said, after the team was announced yesterday. "Once you're in there, you can forget about being nervous and concentrate on the jumping."

Nick Skelton, riding Everest Showtime, will be the second Briton into the arena, followed by Michael Whitaker on Twostep and John Whitaker on Welham. All four British horses have shown good recent form (Twostep won the Grand Prix in Calgary this month and Showtime took the top prize at the Pavarotti Horse Show in Modena last weekend) so there is plenty of confidence about Britain's bid to regain the European team title that they last won in 1989.

Bradley's climb up the show jumping ladder has been swift and impressive. She won her first international class at Olympia last December and her first grand prix at La Baule in July. She has also contributed five clear rounds in her four Nations Cups this year, making her an obvious choice for the team.

Bradley is as dedicated as the late Caroline Bradley (no relation) who was on the winning European team in 1979. The ground here is distinctly soggy after heavy rain, but that should be no deterrent to her mount, Endeavour, who usually goes well in wet ground.

Franke Sloothaak, the world champion and a member of the strong German team here, has had a fraught preparation for these championships. His sponsor, Vincenzo Muccioli of San Patrignano, died on Tuesday; four days earlier Sloothaak dislocated a disc during the Nations Cup at Modena. He has been having intensive physiotherapy to enable him to compete.

The Irish team have won the two toughest Nations Cups of the year (at Aachen and Germany) but they have yet to qualify for next year's Olympic Games - and these championships represent their last chance.

EUROPEAN SHOW JUMPING CHAMPIONSHIPS (St Gallen, Swit): Preliminary Competition: 1 Prokopp's As (T Fruhmann, Aut) clear, 50.15sec; 2 Feliciano (M Gretzer, Swe) clear, 50.76; 3 Flo-Jo (M Hughes, Irl) clear, 51.85. Best British placing: 8 Comex (W Funnell) clear, 55.49.