Equestrianism: Bartle wins battle of the oldies

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CHRIS BARTLE became the oldest rider to win the Badminton championship when he triumphed yesterday on Word Perfect II, after a deliberate show jumping round in the final phase of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.

The Briton (who was the first home rider to win here since 1993) defeated two other mature competitors: New Zealand's Mark Todd (42) on Broadcast News and the US rider Bruce Davidson (48) on his 1995 winner, Eagle Lion.

Bartle had held a brief four-minute lead after finishing clear and within the optimum time across-country on Saturday, before Todd (who was next to go) overtook him by virtue of a slightly better dressage score. "With Toddy coming hard on my heels, my chance of fame and glory was always going to be limited," Bartle said on Saturday. How wrong could he be?

Lying second to Todd overnight, Bartle concentrated on keeping his horse in a good rhythm ( "otherwise I tend to get a bit too excited") and he left all the fences intact to finish with just half a time fault. Todd therefore needed a clear round to win and, when Broadcast News tipped a pole into the water tray at fence seven, Bartle had his fame and glory without limitation.

Bartle, who runs the Yorkshire Riding Centre near Harrogate in Yorkshire, is dressage trainer for the British three-day event team. His last great achievement was in "pure" dressage in 1984, when he finished sixth (the best-ever British placing in this discipline) in the Los Angeles Olympics. Todd, who had been poised to win his fourth Badminton, was philosophical in defeat. "I've lost three Badmintons with a pole down in the show jumping, but I've won three as well. My little fella did the best he's ever done in the other two phases; I blame myself for not giving him a good ride to the water oxer where he lost it today."

Kristina Gifford, lying third overnight after a wonderful cross-country round on General Jock, dropped to sixth after an error at the same fence yesterday. She, too, was delighted with her mount who was the only British horse in the top 10 apart from Word Perfect.

MITSUBISHI MOTORS BADMINTON HORSE TRIALS (Glos): Final results: 1 Word Perfect II (C Bartle, GB) 37.1; 2 Broadcast News(M Todd, NZ) 40.2; 3 Eagle Lion (B Davidson, US) 45.0; 4 Bounce (V Jefferis, NZ) 45.6; 5 Prince Panache (K O'Connor, US) 46.2; 6 General Jock (K Gifford, GB) 49.2; 7 Market Venture (S Black, Can) 55.2; 8 Welton Molecule (L Thompson, Irl) 55.4; 9 Aspyring (B Tait, NZ) 55.4; 10 SAS Monaghan (P Tornquist, Swe) 57.8