Equestrianism: Hoy powers his way to the front

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The Independent Online
ANDREW HOY, the duel Olympic team gold medallist, holds the lead in the first advanced section of the Doubleprint British Horse Championships on Darien Powers. Having opted for the advanced section with this talented grey horse, Hoy thought that he would be without a mount for the British Open Championship which begins today.

Yesterday afternoon, however, he accepted the offer of a last-minute ride on Fairplay from Lian Davies, the 11-year-old's normal partner, who had a nasty fall from another horse at Cornbury last weekend. Having ascertained that Fairplay has jumped double clear rounds at Gatcombe, Punchestown, Blenheim and Chatsworth, Hoy decided to take up the challenge.

"I'll have my first sit on him tomorrow morning and we'll do our dressage test in the afternoon," Hoy said. He won the British Open with Darien Powers in 1997, and was runner-up back in 1984 with Davy when Lucinda Green beat him by just 0.7sec.

Hoy had been tempted to go for the pounds 5,000 top prize in the British Open with Darien Powers, who is his main hope for the Sydney Olympics next year. "Then I decided that I had to do what's best for Darien Powers not Andrew Hoy, so I entered him for the advanced. There will be one or two fewer fences and I won't have as much of an incentive to gallop too quickly."

Hoy holds the advantage in his section from Germany's Marina Loheit on Sir Toby, with Britain's Rodney Powell on Portway and France's Franck Bourny (a former pupil of Mark Todd) on Mallard's Treat sharing third place.

Sue Benson, who took charge of the cross-country course this year, has made every effort to make the going as good as possible. Since last Saturday, a tractor and water bowser have been out for 12 to 15 hours every day to take some of the firmness out of the ground by aerating and watering.

Benson was on the brink of giving up course designing in May this year, having been responsible for the fences at Savernake where Peta Beckett sustained fatal injuries. "That was a defining moment, I know I'll never feel the same about course designing again," she said yesterday.

Having decided to continue, she is anxious but positive about the course she has prepared here in the absence of the usual designer, Captain Mark Phillips, who is in Winnipeg as trainer of the United States team competing in the Pan-American Games.

Also in Winnipeg is Mandy Stibbe, the new chairman of Britain's senior selection committee. Her husband, Eddy, who now rides for Netherlands Antilles, is competing there in the hope of qualifying for the Sydney Olympics.

DOUBLEPRINT BRITISH HORSE TRIALS CHAMPIONSHIPS (Gatcombe, Glos): Advanced I (after 1st day of dressage): 1 Darien Powers (A Hoy, Aus) 25 penalties; 2 Sir Toby (M Loheit, Ger) 27; 3 Portway (R Powell, GB) and Mallard's Treat (F Bourny, Fr) 30.