Equestrianism: Nolan rides the storm

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PIPPA NOLAN won the MacConnal-Mason British Open Championship - and the national title which went with it - for the first time yesterday, after riding Sir Barnaby to a swift, clear cross- country round in drenching rain.

Her one great sadness was that Raymond Brooks-Ward, the BBC television commentator who died suddenly on Saturday morning, was not there to interview her at the finish. The Nolan and Brooks-Ward families have been close friends for many years and Raymond was one of Pippa's greatest supporters.

'I was determined to win for Raymond,' Nolan, who was runner-up here for the last two years, said. She thought she had lost that chance when Sir Barnaby clipped a brick out of the wall in yesterday morning's show jumping and dropped back to equal eighth before the final cross-country.

But the 30 fences designed by Mark Phillips produced some dramatic changes in the placings as competitors jumped in the reverse order of merit. The nimble Barnaby eventually won from Sweden's Fredrick Bergendorff, who is based with Mark Todd and moved up from equal 10th to second.

Lucinda Green also advanced from equal 10th to finish third on Up River. 'It was the first time I've asked him any serious questions and he answered them brilliantly,' Green said of the horse she is planning to ride at Burghley.

Nolan had been lying equal fifth on her other mount, this year's Bramham winner Metronome, but her chance of improving on Barnaby's score disappeared when the horse stopped at the last part of the Land Rover at the Folly (fence seven) and left his rider sitting on the top rail. 'I think that should be one for 'what happened next' on A Question of Sport,' Nolan said.

MACCONNAL-MASON BRITISH OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP (Gatcombe Park): Final results: 1 Sir Barnaby (P Nolan, GB) 50 penalties; 2 Michaelmas Day (F Bergendorff, Swe) 51; 3 Up River (L Green, GB) 37. Advanced (Section 1): 1 Rebel II (G Parsonage, GB) 61; 2 Uncle Sam II (W Fox-Pitt, GB) 62; 3 Blackberry Way (O Moore, GB) 69. (Section 2): 1 Flannagan (D Green, Aus) 56; 2 The Dealer (R Powell, GB) 58; 3 Carmody Street (F Cribb, Aus) 58.

Brooks-Ward obituary, page 14