Equestrianism: Victory on Air

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The Independent Online
DAVID O'CONNOR of the United States kept his nerve to the end to win the British Open Championship at Gatcombe Park yesterday, writes Mary Gordon Watson. One of 36 overseas riders from 63 starters, O'Connor was last to go in probably the strongest field ever seen in a One- Day-Event. 'He was quite wonderful,' O'Connor said of the 10- year-old grey, Lighter Than Air.

Mark Phillips's course lived up to its tough but fair reputation. Fence five, modified from last year, again proved the most influential, catching out Barcelona gold medalist Natt Ryan on Kibah Tictoc, among many others, while Karen Straker looked set for a British victory until Get Smart fell at the water, four from home.

The overnight leader, William Fox Pitt, withdrew Chaka, saving him for the final trial next weekend at Thirlestane before the European Championships in Germany. But Virginia Leng decided to run her Badminton winner Welton Houdini who, she feels, still needs experience. 'It was not his ideal track, too twisty,' she said. 'But he was very honest and had a good school.' It was good enough for fourth place giving her a third National title.

CALOR GAS BRITISH OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP (Gatcombe Park) British Open (final positions): 1 Lighter Than Air (D O'Connor, USA) 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, USA) 54; 6 King Boris (M Thomson, GB) 54.

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