EQUESTRIANISM; Tait eyes grand slam

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The Independent Online
BLYTH TAIT would add an extra dimension to next month's Mitsubishi Badminton Horse Trials if he were to win the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event on Aspyring this weekend. The New Zealander won Burghley last year which, together with Kentucky and Badminton, offers a grand slam prize of nearly pounds 160,000 to any rider who wins all three contests.

This will be the 50th anniversary for Badminton, which runs from 6 to 9 May. The Queen, who last attended the event in 1982, will be back to present the prizes on the final day. As always, there will be a high-class field, with seven of the top ten horses at last year's World Equestrian Games among the expected starters. Tait on Ready Teddy and the other brilliant Kiwi pair, Mark Todd on Broadcast News, will renew their rivalry having filled the top two places in the World Games.

Tait won on that occasion but, under the new scoring system which comes into effect this year, Todd would have been the victor. The scoring is intended to be simpler, but it is bound to cause some confusion until everyone gets to grips with the new rules. They will have the effect of making the show jumping less influential, which is a cause of concern for Tait and some other riders.

Ian Stark will be first to attack the 29 cross-country fences when he rides Jaybee, the first of his two mounts at Badminton. The Scot will then have a long wait before he partners Arakai, who is second last of 91 horses in the draw. These are likely to reduce to between 75 and 80 by the time of the event.

Hugh Thomas, director and course designer, has prepared a serious cross- country challenge. The daunting obstacles include The Challenger Bank (fence 15), where Ready Teddy fell last year, and a double of roll-top fences into water followed by another on a jetty at The Lake (18 and 19).

When they walk the four and a quarter mile course, riders will also be paying close attention to The Shogun Hollow (21), which has tree trunks on either side of steeply sloping banks down to a ditch, and The Quarry (24), where there are two more trunks and a sizeable drop to be taken.