Frenchman too snappy for rivals

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Michel Robert foiled Captain John Leddingham's attempt yesterday to win the Silk Cut Speed Derby at Hickstead for a record fourth year in succession. The Frenchman, riding Alligator Fonteyn, clocked 98.2sec, and was one of only two riders to beat the 100-second barrier with a clear round.

He then had to watch as the four riders seeded ahead of him set out to beat him. The Belgian Stanny Van Paesschen came closest on Capricieux des Six Censes, in 99.75sec, but better was expected of Leddingham on Castlepollard. "He was a bit too keen," the Irishman said, "and jumped big off the bank, which put him too close to the next one." This he lowered, eventually finishing in fifth place. The young British rider Guy Williams excelled himself with Harlem, recording 100.67sec for third place.

Robert rode for the French three-day Olympic team in Munich in 1972 before taking up showjumping, which he finds "more technically challenging".

Robert rides Airborne Montecillo and Degina in the Silk Cut Derby today, and in their present form both seem to have a chance of victory, although he must again overcome the specialist Leddingham, who is going for a third successive win on Kilbaha.