EQUESTRIANISM: Bartle looks to his Oscar

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The Independent Online
CHRIS BARTLE has received hundreds of congratulatory letters since winning Badminton last month, but they have not deflected the Yorkshireman from his preparations to compete in his home county this week.

Bartle will ride Oscar in the Bramham International Three-Day Event, which begins this morning. Though the horse's show jumping is "not in the same league" as that of Word Perfect (his winning Badminton mount), the 11-year-old is competent in all three phases to allow the rider hope for another success story.

This is the 25th and potentially the most compelling event at Bramham, where two New Zealand-bred thoroughbreds - Stunning, ridden by Mark Todd, and Jaybee, with Ian Stark in the saddle - are among the more interesting runners. Both have been hailed as Olympic prospects, though Stunning has had problems at water fences and given Todd three falls as a result.

The key obstacles for Todd on Saturday's cross-country course may well be the Kidney Pond (fence 17) and the Tree Trunk (18). Between the two is a waterfall, described by the course designer Captain Mark Phillips as "heart-stopping".

Todd bought Stunning, a big chestnut gelding, at the end of 1996 on one of his annual trips home to New Zealand. The seven-year-old Jaybee only arrived at Stark's yard in the Scottish Borders this spring and the coat that he was growing in preparation for a New Zealand winter had to be clipped. "We've tried to kid him that it's summer, but the weather's not helping much," Stark's wife, Jenny, said.

Bruce Davidson, of the United States, will be competing against his son, Buck. This will be their first joint appearance at a British event. In Kentucky, where they competed in April, Buck finished sixth, with his father in seventh and eighth places.

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