Equestrianism: Blunt sharpens Todd: British Open's new pair

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MARK TODD will be riding a new partner, Bertie Blunt, at the Calor Gas British Horse Trials Championships which begin today at Gatcombe Park. The 10- year-old gelding, formerly partnered by Nick Burton, has been bought by Todd's sponsors at Bond International.

Burton rode the big chestnut thoroughbred into ninth place at Badminton in 1993 but retired after cross-country falls at both last year's European Championships and this year's Badminton.

Todd and his two regular New Zealand team-mates - Blyth Tait and Andrew Nicholson - will be competing in the British Open Championship, which will be decided tomorrow afternoon when riders go in reverse order of merit across country.

Three members of Britain's victorious team in last month's World Equestrian Games - Karen Dixon, Mary Thomson and Kristina Gifford - will also be in contention. Dixon's Too Smart and Gifford's Song and Dance Man, their reserve horses in The Hague, will both be in action.

Dixon, who won the individual bronze medal on Get Smart, would have been happy enough to ride her second horse at the Games even though he is only an eight- year-old. 'He's a lovely horse with a big heart, and he'd go to the end of time,' Dixon said of Too Smart, with whom she won the Punchestown three-day event in Ireland this year.

Ginny Elliot, adviser to the British team at the World Games, returns to competition on Welton Romance in the British Open. She will be defending the national title on this classy eight-year-old mare, having finished fourth (and leading Briton) last August.