EQUESTRIANISM; Britain make the wrong choice

GEORGE BOWMAN Snr and his sprightly team of four black cobs will not be adding to their medal collection for driving at the World Equestrian Games. On yesterday's difficult marathon section on the hills the 63-year- old Cumbrian driver, who has been runner-up for three previous world titles, had "hiccups" in most of the eight hazards. He is lying in 10th place as they go into today's final obstacle driving.

Werner Ulrich, of Switzerland, holds a slender advantage, but he has no less than four drivers within five penalties (the cost of one displaced cone today) so it is bound to be a fraught finale. Michael Freund of Germany (who defeated Bowman when he won in The Hague in 1994) is a mere 0.92pt behind the leader in second place

The British team, lying seventh, would have held a higher place if Karen Bassett, competing here as an individual, had been included in the team instead of her sister, Pippa Thomas, or George Bowman Jnr (the son of George Snr).

Bassett had a setback in the spring when the rein of one of her lead horses became caught on the harness and the whole team of four took off with her. Having been tipped out of the vehicle when it almost turned over, Bassett was horrified to discover that her horses had collided with a car. They sustained only minor injuries but it took time to get them back into gear.

In September, Bassett proved that she was back on form by winning the national championship at Windsor, after the vehicle of George Bowman Snr had turned over on the marathon course. But, by then, the team for the World Games had already been chosen, with Bassett as an individual competitor.

Bowman Jnr (who won a team gold medal in the world championships for horse pairs last year) is representing Britain with a four-horse team for the first time. Young George (as he is known to distinguish him from his father) is normally a bit of a tearaway on the marathon. Yesterday he was held back by the ground, which became more tiring for those who went towards the end of the day, and, possibly equally so, by being told to make sure that he completed the course safely.

Pippa Thomas was delayed through having to make running repairs to her harness, having broken three traces during the marathon section. She happens to be a saddler and harness maker herself, so she will not be looking to change her supplier.

The top 25 show jumpers after Thursday's two-round contest had a well- earned rest yesterday. They will be back in action in the Flaminio Stadium today for two further rounds, which will decide which four riders compete in tomorrow's final in which they all ride their own and each other's horses.

WORLD EQUESTRIAN GAMES: Driving (horse teams at Pratoni del Vivaro) Positions after marathon phase: 1 W Ulrich (Swit) 141.20; 2 M Freund (Ger) 142.12; 3 T Eriksson (Swe) 142.28; 4 T Monhemius (Neth) 142.92; 5 I Chardon (Neth) 143.16; 6 C Sandmann (Ger) 145.60. GB: 10 G Bowman Snr 153.84; 12 K Bassett 157.72; 24 G Bowman Jnr 181.16; 27 P Thomas 188.04. Teams: 1 Netherlands 286.08; 2 Germany 287.72; 3 Sweden 288.20; 4 Switzerland 309.72; 5 Hungary 310.04; 6 US 321.00; 7 GB 326.20; 8 Belgium 339.60.

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