Equestrianism: Mr Springfield back to form as Smith sets pace

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The Independent Online

Robert Smith, one of the leading Yorkshire-born riders competing in their native county took yesterday's first-leg of the British Open Show Jumping Championship - the feature event of the four-day meeting in the Hallam FM Arena.

He rode to victory on the agile Mr Springfield, who has recently returned to top form after being out for seven months with a leg injury. Looking glad to be back in harness, Mr Springfield relegated Cushty and John Renwick to runners up, with Ireland's Billy Twomey slotting into third place on Anastasia III.

Smith will be taking both Mr Springfield and Marius Claudius to the Super League Show at La Baule in France in three weeks time, at the start of his campaign to secure an Olympic place.

"I'm not saying which horse has the better chance," Smith said yesterday. "If you pick one, the other is bound to show that you got it wrong."

Bernardo Alves rode Solitaire to a swift clear round and a split-second victory in the Steel City Shield. In the process he defeated two top British riders - William Funnell on Douglas Bunn's Buddy Bunn and Tim Stockdale on Fresh Direct Glenwood Springs.

Alves has some good previous form. This year he was runner-up in the World Cup qualifier at Vigo in Spain. Drawn early in yesterday's class with the nine-year-old mare, Solitaire, Alves jumped clear in a time that none of his opponents could match.

Funnell came closest on Buddy Bunn, who was ridden by Douglas Bunn's daughter, Chloe, until this year. The 11-year-old could be a useful additions to Funnell's string, but the gelding cannot compensate him for the broken splint bone recently sustained by Mondriaan with whom he was aiming for an Olympic place until the horse was injured.

Tim Stockdale finished third on Glenwood Springs with whom he won the British Speed Stakes here last year.

British Open Show Jumping Championships (Hallam FM Arena, Sheffield): Steel City Shield: 1 Solitaire (B Alves, Bra) clear, 33.29sec; 2 Buddy Bunn (W Funnell, GB) clear, 33.44; 3 Fresh Direct Glenwood Springs (T Stockdale, GB) clear, 35.08. British Young Riders Classic: 1 Jurius (S Heaven) clear, 38.39; 2 Continue B (G Plumley) clear, 39.44; 3 Make Haste V (L Pavitt) 4 faults, 33.28. British Open Show Jumping Championships First-leg: 1 Mr Springfield (R Smith, GB) clear, 49.41; 2 Cushty (J Renwick, GB) clear, 51.24; 3 Anastasia III (B Twoney, Irl) clear, 51.35.