Equestrianism: Frith still the dominant force

GEORGINA FRITH maintained her domination of the European Driving Championship for pony teams when she gained her third consecutive victory at Saumur in France over the weekend.

The 29-year-old driver, who works five days a week as a pharmacist, has held the title since 1995 when the first championships for teams of four ponies were staged. This time Frith also won her first team medal when she joined forces with Anna Grayston and Ursula Hirschberg to finish second behind the winning Dutch trio.

Boyd Exell, the team trainer, was confident of victory for Frith as soon as she set off through the cones in the final obstacle driving. "She went through the first three and didn't waver at all," he said. "Everything was done exactly as we planned, you really couldn't have asked for anything better."

Frith had been a close second to Mia Allo - her Belgian conqueror at Windsor in May - at the end of the opening dressage phase. She then took the overall lead after the marathon - despite initial concerns at the exceptionally tight turns in the eight hazards - and retained it with a clear round through the cones.

It was thought that the hazards would favour the smaller ponies, such as the Shetlands driven for the Netherlands by Aart van der Kamp, who flew round in the fastest time of the day. But Frith and her larger Welsh ponies had the second best time and, having achieved a better dressage score than the Dutchman, she defeated him by 5.09 penalties.

Although Frith had not competed abroad for 18 months, she had a hunch that the Dutch and Germans would provide formidable opposition. Two of the Dutch drivers - Van der Kamp and Piotr van der Heyden - proved that point when winning team gold medals, having already taken the individual silver and bronze.

EUROPEAN DRIVING CHAMPIONSHIPS FOR PONY TEAMS (Saumur, Fr): 1 G Frith (GB) 154.91 penalties; 2 A Van Der Kamp (Neth) 160.00; 3 P Van Der Heyden, Neth) 164.28. Other GB: 10 P Gammell 196.17; 14 A Grayston 204.42; 15 U Hirschberg 207.95. Teams: 1 Netherlands 324.28; 2 Britain 348.53; 3 Germany 367.41.

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