Equestrianism: Hoy relieved by success after injury setbacks

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The Independent Online

Bettina Hoy held the advantage when the dressage phase of the Burghley Horse Trials was completed yesterday, despite being hampered by an injury that has left a weakness in her left leg. The German rider moved ahead of Pippa Funnell and Zara Phillips, who had held the top two places here on Thursday night.

Hoy's leg injury was sustained in a fall at Lulworth Castle at the end of July. She has since had two more spills - at Gatcombe, where she was in the lead until Ringwood Cockatoo stopped at the final fence and shot her over his head, and at the Olympic test event in Athens, where Diamond Magic slipped over in the show jumping and landed on his side on her right leg.

After such an unhappy run, Hoy was relieved to record a victory on Woodsides Ashby at Martinvast in France two weeks ago. "It was a perfect warm-up," she said, as she prepared to tackle the 32 fences on today's cross-country track with a brace protecting her left knee.

Funnell is now 3.2 penalties behind Hoy as she attempts to achieve a hat-trick of four-star wins that would earn her the handsome sum of $250,000 (£160,000) in the Rolex Grand Slam. Her mount, Primmore's Pride, is "physically stronger and more mature" since his victory at Lexington in Kentucky in April. "My main concern is that he's such a good jumper that he wastes time in the air," Funnell said. "I know he's got all the scope in the world, so maybe I need to be a bit braver and take tighter turns."

Those behind Funnell are rather too close for comfort. They include Hoy's pupil, Zara Phillips, who will be tackling her first four-star track but already has a fine cross-country record with Toytown. A whisker behind her comes New Zealand's Andrew Nicholson, the winner here in 1995 and 2000, whose mount Lord Killinghurst looked impressive finishing seventh in the British Open Championship at Gatcombe last month.

Wolfgang Feld, the German course designer, is reckoned to have made subtle changes. The two water complexes (fences 12 and 13) and Capability's Cutting (19 and 20) are giving the riders special food for thought.