Equestrianism: Parsonage in driving seat

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The Independent Online
GARY PARSONAGE, who once worked as a long-distance lorry driver and hod carrier to finance his riding, won the richest prize of his career when he collected the pounds 5,000 which went to the winner of the Eventing Grand Prix at the International Horse Show yesterday.

As if the Coral Cove positive dope test case had not already been done to death, it inevitably resurfaced with this victory. Parsonage was a member of the team that finished third in last year's World Equestrian Games, before being disqualified because of the level of salicylic acid in the two urine samples taken from Coral Cove, the mount of his team- mate Polly Phillipps.

"Nobody has officially asked for the return of the bronze medal and I don't think I'd be able to lay my hands on it if they did," Parsonage said, tongue-in-cheek. He declined to say whether he would have been happy to compete against Phillipps, who pulled out of the contest last week.

Parsonage won on Just So II, despite incurring a 15-second penalty for lowering three of the 28 fences on yesterday's course which began and ended in the international arena. He defeated Lucinda Fredericks, who had two errors on Simply Red III, and Eddy Stibbe, who had three with Fox on Wings.

Only five show-jumping riders eventually took on the 19 eventers and none of them finished in the top 10. Peter Charles, the best of the show jumpers after the dressage when lying 11th, ended his challenge with a fall at the ditch and hedge, fence nine. William Funnell was eliminated at the same obstacle but his eventing wife, Pippa, rode his show-jumper Henkie into ninth place.

Parsonage had ridden the winning mount, Just So II, for only two weeks. The horse was formerly partnered in young riders contests by Camilla Hall, but it was decided to give Parsonage the ride at Hickstead because the horse is good at dressage and "sharp under pressure" when jumping. After this success, Parsonage is expected to keep the ride.

Franke Sloothaak, a member of the powerful show-jumping team from Germany, won the later Traxdata International Stakes on the eight-year-old mare, Landdame. The former world champion finished a comfortable 3.55sec ahead of the Dutchman Peter Geerink on DBH Fedor, with Britain's Andrew Davies 5.43sec further back in third place on the consistent Captain Wellington.

Results, Digest, page 31