Equestrianism: Cassan's repeat performance

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TINA CASSAN, riding Bond Xtra, was the appropriate winner of the Bond International Championship for the Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Hickstead yesterday.

Cassan, who also won this Ladies' Championship last year with Genesis, is one of the two newly promoted 'Bond Girls'. She and Emma-Jane Brown have been adopted recently to ride for Bond International, the Yorkshire-based firm associated with Trevor Banks, who has been involved in top class show jumping for 50 years.

Banks bought Xtra just one month ago from Brian Dye, and this was only the third show for this new partnership. He is a strong ride, but Cassan was delighted: 'I'd only ridden the horse at two shows before I arrived at Hickstead and really didn't know what to expect today.'

While Xtra is kept with Banks in Yorkshire, Cassan has her own yard near Newbury. Her future looks a lot more promising than six months ago, when Fred Brown, the owner of Genesis, died suddenly. All the horses were sold with Genesis going to George Lindemann in America. Cassan debated whether to start again after turning down offers to ride abroad - she made a good decision. After the euphoric years of readily available sponsorship, breaks like this have become scarce but and Cassan and Brown look a good investment.

Course designer Jon Doney gauged the competition perfectly. Setting a course just below maximum dimensions, he aimed to have six to eight clear rounds for the jump off. There were seven.

Kelly Brown went first on Alfredo, and a fast clear set a target of 47.95sec, which her younger sister Emma-Jane looked determined to beat for a Bond victory. But she failed the last rail on Bond Gringo in the fastest time of 43.04, finishing fifth.

The Australian Di Dawson, second last year, was clear again on Taxi for fourth place just behind veteran Liz Edgar, a record five times winner of this title, whose gallant effort with Everest Asher just failed.

ROYAL INTERNATIONAL HORSE SHOW (Hickstead): Queen Elizabeth II Cup (Bond International Championship): 1 Bond Xtra (T Cassan) clear, 44.9sec; 2 Everest Asher (L Edgar) clear, 47.05; 3 Alfredo (K Brown) clear, 47.95.