Equestrianisn: Word For Word gives Todd his third Open

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The Independent Online
MARK TODD secured his third British Open title at Gatcombe - and his first for 10 years - when he rode the New Zealand-bred Word for Word to victory yesterday at the British Horse Trials Championships.

Word for Word, Todd's main contender for next year's Sydney Olympics, became a 10-year-old yesterday (antipodean horses count their age from 1 August) and the thoroughbred celebrated with a wonderfully mature performance.

"He doesn't pull, so you can gallop him into fences and turn easily," Todd said. "I knew he was really fast and that I hadn't left much room for any of the others to catch me."

The New Zealander's main threat came from Germany's Bettina Overesch, who had scorched round on the flatish ground of Cornbury Park for a convincing victory the previous Sunday. The steep hills here were, however, a disadvantage.

"If I allow him to go faster up and down the hills, he gets too strong," Overesch said of the grey after filling second place. Todd's team-mate, Blyth Tait, was third on Chesterfield, having advanced from a disappointing dressage that had left him in 14th place when the first phase was completed.

Todd (who also finished sixth with Diamond Hall Red) had been in two minds as to whether to run Word for Word. The horse, whose record includes a win at Saumur last year and second place at Badminton in May, had "a mild touch of colic" last Wednesday. But he has felt "very perky" since then and, with the going better than Todd had expected, he took his chance and won.

Polly Clark, the best of the British, was fourth on Westlord and ninth on All Black II. Mary King, out of action this year with a broken wrist and ankle, finished seventh on King William and 16th on Star Appeal.

Karen Dixon, also on the injured list this year after a horrible fall at Bramham in June, was 12th on Too Smart, who would have been higher but for overjumping the first part of Coutts Complex and therefore having to opt for the slower route there.

Andrew Hoy, who had won the first advanced section here on Darien Powers, gave his chance mount, Lian Davies' Fairplay a wonderful ride to be tenth. The Australian had sat on the horse for the first time on Saturday and he jumped his first fence on him yesterday.

Great efforts had been made by course designer Sue Benson and her team to improve the going that had become rock hard after the long dry spell. As a result riders were pleasantly surprised. "They've done a fantastic job on the ground, we appreciate that," Todd said.

Almost inevitably after all the aerating and watering there was a spectacular deluge, accompanied by thunder and lightening, after the British Open was completed. It could have been a final salvo for Todd, who is retiring after the Sydney Olympics and may not be competing here again.

Results, Digest, page 9