Football: Long the year's fourth fatality

ANOTHER FATALITY plunged the world of equestrianism into mourning last night when the 38-year-old Bradford-on-Avon rider Simon Long was killed when somersaulting from his horse, Springleaze Macaroo, at the Burghley Pedigree Chum horse trials. He is the fourth rider to have died while in action this year, following Polly Philipps, Peta Beckett and Robert Slade.

The traumatic news took the gloss off another impressive performance from Mark Todd, the world's most successful event rider, who took the lead with a faultless round on the New Zealand-bred nine-year-old Word For Word. It was the high spot of a long, dramatic day under a scorching sun, in which many fancied contenders fell, withdrew, retired or just failed to shine.

Going first out of 75 starters, Todd added nothing to his dressage score of 77 and stopped the clock at the exact time allowed of 12 minutes 24 seconds, the only combination to achieve this. "We were 24 seconds down at halfway, but he had the class and speed to make it up. He's a fabulous horse," he said, making light of his achievement as always, but admitting that some of the obstacles rode very big.

His prediction, that the Sunken Water at 20 would be the most influential, proved correct. Its steep exit out and immediate rails on the bank proved too demanding for several, and the cross-country phase was stopped for several minutes after Long's dramatic somersault. The horse was unhurt, but it was later discovered that Long had suffered fatal injuries. Britain's Panda Wilson also broke her collarbone falling from Dusky Sky.

Todd stands 16 points ahead of Kristina Gifford, riding her veteran of British teams General Jock, now 14, who just missed the optimum time by three seconds after a bold and impressive ride.

Karen Dixon, in third place on 95 after a great round on Too Smart, praised the organisation and the well-prepared ground but said it was difficult to make up lost time. "You're always turning, going up, down, having to think," she said.

Dixon had a baby six months ago, and suffered a broken shoulder blade and three ribs, and a punctured lung, at Bram-ham in June. She was impressed by the organisation and the preparation of the ground, but the course took a heavy toll.

Blyth Tait, the world champion, was also hurt when Chesterfield hurled him into the rails at 20. Bright moments were provided by Mary King on her first ride, King Solomon, although she fell from Star Appeal later, and by Ian Stark with Arakai, who added just 19 time penalties to his dressage and stands in fourth place, alerting Britain's team selectors.

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