Equestrianism: Leng warms up for Europe

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The Independent Online
VIRGINIA LENG'S fourth place in Saturday's British Open section of the Calor Gas Horse Trials Championships here proved an excellent preparation for next month's European Championships, as well as giving Leng the national title for the third time.

Though beaten by three overseas riders - David O'Connor of the United States, and New Zealanders Vicky Latta and Mark Todd - Leng was delighted with the way her Badminton winner, Welton Houdini, tackled the 27 cross-country fences.

'It wasn't Houdini's sort of course, you had to keep twisting and turning,' Leng said. 'That's why I wanted to ride him here. It was much harder work than at Badminton, but he was very honest and we both learned a lot.'

O'Connor's victory was on the nippy Lighter Than Air, who was more suited to the hilly Gatcombe course. The grey is owned by Abigail Lufkin, now at college in the States, who will probably want him as her own mount before next year's World Equestrian Games in which O'Connor is expected to ride On A Mission.

Eddy Stibbe won yesterday's Advanced Section II for the Netherlands on High Strider, who went round the cross-country like an express train and without error. He defeated Fox-Pitt on Thomastown and Australia's Olympic champion, Matt Ryan, on Super Sam II.

Andrew Nicholson's victory for New Zealand in the Intermediate Championship left Tiny Clapham (winner of Saturday's Advanced Section I on Jacana) as the only Briton to collect a first prize here.

Two riders and one horse left Gatcombe by ambulance. Caroline Casburn sustained facial injuries and Jane Hood had a suspected neck injury after falls. Lismore Lord Charles, ridden by Erica Watson, fell yesterday but was back on his feet before being driven off for further examination.

CALOR GAS HORSE TRIALS CHAMPIONSHIPS (Gatcombe Park, Glos) British Open: 1 Lighter Than Air (D O'Connor, US) 46 penalties; 2 Chief (V Latta, NZ) 48; 3 Just An Ace (M Todd, NZ) 52; 4 Welton Houdini (V Leng, GB) 53; 5 Sassy Reason (S Bradley, US) 54; 6 King Boris (M Thomson, GB) 54. Advanced Section II: 1 High Strider (E Stibbe, Neth) 50; 2 Thomastown (W Fox-Pitt, GB) 52; 3 Super Sam II (M Ryan, Aus) 53. Intermediate Championship: 1 Jagermeister II (A Nicholson, NZ) 51; 2 Kayen (R Lemieux, Can) 55; 3 Midnight Blue II (K Gifford, GB) 58.