Equestrianism: Hester hits heights

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CARL HESTER repeated last year's victory by winning the Grand Prix title at the British National Dressage Championships at Stoneleigh yesterday. The event was decided on the combined score of Saturday evening's freestyle to music and yesterday's grand prix.

The formula made little difference to Hester, since he won both classes with Marcia Kelsey's Legal Democrat - and achieved his best ever freestyle score of 70.53 per cent. Hester defeated Emile Faurie on El Lute and Lizzie Loriston-Clarke on Catherston Dazzler, whom she took over from her mother (the Olympic rider Jennie Loriston-Clarke) a year ago.

Hester was given the ride on Legal Democrat four years ago, after picking the horse out from 70-odd photographs in a competition run by the magazine Horse and Rider. As her prize, Kelsey and her big 17.3 hands horse received lessons from Hester. When Legal Democrat moved to higher levels, Kelsey accepted that her horse needed a more experienced rider. Hester was the obvious choice.

But for a minor injury, which meant that he missed a couple of international shows, Legal Democrat would almost certainly have been picked for next month's World Equestrian Games. Having been passed over, Hester was hoping that Legal Democrat might have a chance of defeating the chosen team horses here. They were, however, absent yesterday due to their impending departure for Rome. Despite that, nobody could describe Legal Democrat's emphatic win as a hollow victory. "He's a majestic creature when he's on this form," Hester said of his mount after yesterday's test.

BRITISH NATIONAL DRESSAGE CHAMPIONSHIPS (Stoneleigh, Warwicks): Butcher's Pet Care Grand Prix Championship (combined freestyle and grand prix scores): 1 Legal Democrat (C Hester) 69.19 per cent; 2 El Lute (E Faurie) 67.94; 3 Catherston Dazzler (L Loriston-Clarke) 66.76. Morgan Equine Intermediaire I Freestyle: 1 Catherston Humbug (L Loriston-Clarke)70.05 per cent; 2 Gambrinus (P Storr) 67.66; 3 Viktor (R Bowley) 66.79.