Dressage setback as Britain struggle

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The battle for national supremacy continued in dressage in the Olympic Team Grand Prix yesterday, with Germany and the Netherlands fighting it out. Britain are a demoralising ninth with only Spain faring worse.

After three riders from each of the 10 teams had completed their tests, Germany were boosted by the 1845 (73.80 per cent) achieved by Monica Theodorescu on Grunox. The Netherlands responded with an even better score - 1893 (75.72 per cent)- from Anky Van Grunsven and Bonfire.

Asked if she was pleased with her marks the 28-year-old Dutch girl replied: "No. It was better than that. It should have been nearer 78 per cent."

Although she had not watched Isabell Werth achieve 1915 on Gigolo, many observers felt Bonfire deserved higher marks, and no one was more adamant than her partner and trainer Sjef Janssen: "What more can we do? That was the best he has ever gone."

Theodorescu, a team gold-medallist in both Seoul and Barcelona, was consistent as ever. Grunox looked a very different picture to Bonfire. He is accurate, harmonious and correct, less animated or flamboyant than Bonfire, whose high knee action is almost hackney.

Earlier interest focused on the reigning Olympic champion, Nicole Uphoff- Becker and Rembrandt, who scored record marks in Barcelona and still shines in the difficult movements but those of us who witnessed his Grand Prix performance that won the World Games in Stockholm, 1990, as the best dressage we have ever seen, felt a little sad. He is now 19, and broke his leg three years ago, so inevitably he is past his best.

Britain's third rider Vicky Thompson needed all her considerable tact to nurse her horse Enfant through a tense situation. "He's easily frightened," she said. "And when he saw those little stone figures on the corners that were not there during the practice session he had a panic attack. I was too slow to react, and got caught out. He's still quite green - this is just his seventh grand prix." Obviously she was disappointed with 60.64 per cent after her 67 per cent in Aachen recently.

Britain could not have expected to reach the best 25 which qualify for the individual medals later this week but their results are a major setback to a sport that has increased in popularity more rapidly than any other equestrian sport in Britain.