Equestrianism: Bowman on target again

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GEORGE BOWMAN gained his 15th national title - and his fifth in succession - when he won the horse teams section of the Lexus National Horse Driving Championships. The remarkable 57-year-old Cumbrian would have won the world title the previous weekend but for his groom putting one foot on the ground during the marathon section, incurring 10 penalties.

Ironically, such penalties will only be incurred next year if both feet touch down, but Bowman was philosophical. His groom's mistake was to react too quickly, stepping off the vehicle to help one of the horses that stumbled and almost fell before it regained its feet.

'He's a good lad, I wasn't displeased with him,' Bowman said yesterday. 'At least we proved that we can beat the rest of them if things go right for us.'

Bowman, who will be giving seminars in California in October and Argentina in January, defeated Alwyn Holder and Geoff Woods. The four Warmblood horses driven by Woods were originally trained by David Saunders, the Duke of Edinburgh's former coachman, who is flying to Belgium today to begin work as sales manager for the harness maker, Henk van der Weil.

Saunders, who finished seventh with a team of horses that will now be sold, has already been asked if he would consider driving a pair of horses for Belgium. 'I told them I'd be prepared to drive a team of goats for Iceland if anyone asked me,' he said.

Pippa Thomas narrowly failed to retain her title in the pony teams when hitting two cones in yesterday's final obstacle driving. She was beaten by Georgina Frith, a 22-year-old Surrey pharmacist, who gained her first national title when finishing half a point in front.

LEXUS NATIONAL HORSE DRIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS (Windsor Great Park): Horse teams: 1 G Bowman 131.4 penalties; 2 A Holder 142.3; 3 G Woods 163.0. Pony teams: 1 G Frith 128.6; 2 P Thomas, 129.1; 3 P Gammell 134.9. Other champions: Horse pairs: B Johnstone. Pony pairs: J Holah. Single horse: C Allen. Single pony: A Grayston. Horse tandem: C Webb. Pony tandem: A Leggett.