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Equestrianism: Bartle steps up in class on Oscar

CHRISTOPHER BARTLE and Ian Stark will be looking for compensation for missing the World Equestrian Games at the Burghley Pedigree Chum Horse Trials, which begin this morning in Lincolnshire with the first of two days of dressage. Both riders' mounts, Bartle's Word Perfect II and Stark's Saucy Brown, were injured just days before the British three-day event squad for the games was announced on Tuesday.

Bartle will be riding 11-year-old Oscar at Burghley. The horse, who finished third at Bramham in June, will be competing at four-star level for the first time. "You never quite know how they'll cope when they move up a level, but I have plenty of confidence in him," Bartle said.

Stark's giant partner, The Moose, who stands more than 18 hands high, had one run-out when finishing 27th at Badminton in May. "He's grown up a lot since then," Stark said of the nine-year-old, who "went the best he's ever gone" when finishing 12th in the Scottish Open Championship at Thirlestane Castle less than two weeks ago.

Stark was in no great hurry at Thirlestane. Other horses preparing for Burghley achieved faster times - notably Chesterfield and Aspyring, with whom New Zealand's Blyth Tait finished first and third. Chesterfield will be first to go in the dressage arena this morning and again on the cross- country on Saturday.

Mark Todd on his Burghley mount, Stunning, had finished on the same score as Christopher Bartle on Oscar at Bramham. Curiously enough, they did exactly the same at Thirlestane, where both were only two points behind the winner when finishing fourth and fifth.

Three venues - Burghley, Lexington in Kentucky and Badminton - run the only four-star events in the world. There is a grand slam prize of pounds 160,000 for any rider winning all three.