Equestrianism: Ready Teddy comfort for Tait

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BLYTH TAIT and Ready Teddy, with whom he won the individual Olympic gold medal in 1996, gave a sparkling performance to win the Doubleprint British Open Championship here yesterday. The New Zealander defeated Karen Dixon (who took the national title having gained the best British score on Too Smart) with last year's Australian winner, Andrew Hoy, in third place on Buckley Province.

Tait regards Ready Teddy as a great little horse - "If I had to choose only one to ride, I'd choose him every time" - but the 10-year-old has not been without his problems. Last year he began running away towards the end of the Gatcombe course. This year at Badminton he had a fall at The Bank when in with a winning chance.

"I pushed him at the beginning of the course here last year and got him rattled," Tait said yesterday, after gaining his first British Open title. "This time I let him bowl along at his own pace." It turned out to be a smart pace since Ready Teddy recorded the fastest time. The second fastest was another of Tait's mounts, Chesterfield, who finished in fifth place.

Dixon, who has been on three British Olympic teams and was the winner of this contest with Too Smart in 1994, has been making a brave comeback after breaking her leg almost a year ago. "When I started riding again in February, I came down to Gatcombe to get some help from Mark Phillips. He got me going again," Dixon said.

Too Smart's next outing will be at Henbury Hall in Cheshire the weekend after next, when Dixon will be among the short-listed British riders taking part in the final trial for the World Equestrian Games to be held in Italy in October. The Great Britain team will be defending their world title which was won in The Hague four years ago when Dixon was part of the winning quartet.

Pippa Nolan, winner of the British Open here in 1992, had been leading after the dressage and show jumping on Rainbow Magic. She was, therefore, last to go on the cross-country which, as always, was run in the reverse order of merit.

Nolan's chance of a repeat victory disappeared half way round the 32- fence course when Rainbow Magic had a less than fluent jump over the first of three parts in the Coutts Complex. Wisely opting for a longer route there on the nine-year-old, Nolan collected some extra time penalties as a result. But she must have been pleased to complete a clear round for fourth place.

Those assessing form in the run-up to the World Games will have noted the fine performance of Tait's intended partner, Ready Teddy. Hoy, who has won two Olympic team gold medals for Australia, also looks to have the right horsepower in last year's Bramham winner, Swizzle In, his winning partner in the first advanced section here on Saturday.

David O'Connor, of the United States, and his wife, Karen, filled the top two places in the second advanced section yesterday.

Results, Digest, page 17