Gifford on track for Badminton

Kristina Gifford and her long-standing partner, General Jock, gave a wonderful exhibition of bold cross-country jumping yesterday when winning one of three advanced sections at the Horse and Hound Bicton Horse Trials.

Gifford, who rode no fewer than six horses in the advanced contests, finished on the same score as Australia's 1992 Olympic champion, Matt Ryan, and won section P by virtue of a faster cross-country time. General Jock will be competing at Badminton next month, as will Ryan's Kibah Sandstone, who finished seventh and eighth at Burghley in the last two years and is his main hope for the Sydney Olympics.

The two other advanced winners - Rodney Powell on Flintstone IV and Claire Phillips from Wales on Capuchin - were also giving their respective mounts a preparatory outing before Badminton. Powell, who was badly bruised in a fall at the European Championships last year, won Badminton in 1991 with The Irishman II.

The three victorious riders in the advanced sections will now have a chance to win a £25,650 TD5 Discovery - the first vehicle to be offered as a prize for eventing - at Armathwaite Hall in Cumbria on 2 July. To capture the vehicle, they would also be required to win the Strongid-P Classic section at the Cumbrian fixture.

Mary King was in no great hurry with her two Badminton entries, King Solomon III and Star Appeal, yesterday. Her horses looked in fine form as they galloped up and down hill. The same applies to Gifford's The Gangster II and Jeanette Brakewell's Over to You, who were on last year's winning European Championship team and are strong contenders for Olympic places.