Equestrianism: Alfredo and Brown book their seats: Team manager in confident mood as British horses find their peak of form

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The Independent Online
THE slight doubt concerning Kelly Brown's participation in the World Equestrian Games was put aside yesterday afternoon, when her place in the British team was confirmed by Ronnie Massarella, the team manager.

The off foresole of Brown's mount, Alfredo, was pricked while being shod last week. There was still some bruising in the foot and the Irish-bred grey was among those which had to be presented for a second horse inspection yesterday morning. Having been passed as sound, Alfredo jumped an impressive clear round in the first of two warm-up classes. John McEwen, the British team vet, had another look at the horse before Brown's place was confirmed.

Brown will be first to go for Britain in today's speed competition, which is the first leg of the Championship. She will be followed by John Whitaker on Everest Gammon, Nick Skelton on Dollar Girl and Michael Whitaker on Midnight Madness.

Massarella was in confident mood yesterday, as his riders prepared to attempt to add team gold medals for show jumping to those gained by the British three-day eventers on Sunday. Dollar Girl, Midnight Madness and Gammon had looked to be in peak form when they jumped clear over seven fences in the first warm-up class before their riders retired.

'Whoever wins will deserve it, they'll have seven or eight teams coming at them all the time,' Massarella said. 'But our preparation has been the best we've had for a long time and the horses are looking exceptionally good.'

Germany, the Netherlands and the defending champions from France are probably the ones that the British would least like to see 'coming at them'. But the contest between 20 teams, which will be decided after tomorrow's two- round contest, is probably more open than ever before. Massarella (who last won the world title in 1978 with a different quartet) is also looking for possible threats from Ireland, Switzerland, the United States and Brazil.

The riders gave their wholehearted approval to the sand and wood-chip surface in the main stadium, which has just about the right amount of 'give' in it. 'It's much better than the gritty sand they used for the Olympics in Barcelona,' Skelton said.

The leading 20 riders after tomorrow's contest will have to jump a further two rounds on Saturday evening. These will decide which four compete for Sunday's individual final, in which they ride their own and each other's horses.

Michael Whitaker, who is top of the world rankings, and Skelton are among the favourites to reach the final. So are two Germans, Ludger Beerbaum and Franke Sloothaak. And it would be no surprise if either Nelson Pessoa or his son, Rodrigo, gave Brazil something other than football to cheer about.

The results of yesterday's warm- up classes were unimportant compared with today's action, but British riders were still pleased to win them. Geoff Billington, the team's reserve, took the first with It's Otto; John Whitaker won the other with his second horse, Everest Grannusch.

The endurance riders, who will gather for their 6.30am massed start of the 100-mile race on Friday, are still wondering whether the army of volunteers will manage to clear a path for them along the beach which will be used for most of the route.

They will begin to thin out as they go through the five veterinary gates, so there will not be one single bunch to go through. Bat-and- ball players, sand-castle builders and, on one stretch, a nudist colony could impede their progress.

WORLD EQUESTRIAN GAMES (The Hague) First warm-up class for show jumping: 1 It's Otto (G Billington, GB) clear, 65.17sec; 2 Sir Archy (B Grandjean, Swit) clear, 66.68; 3 Rivage La Silla (C Aguirre, Mex) clear, 67.25. Second warm-up class: 1 Everest Grannusch (J Whitaker, GB) clear, 63.41; 2 Poker (M Beerbaum, Ger) clear, 64.60; 3 Pelegrino La Silla (C Aguirre, Mex) 64.61.

(Photograph omitted)