Olympic plans hit by absences

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The Independent Online

Captain Mark Phillips has questioned the tactics employed by the British Olympic three-day event squad after it was revealed that only two of the nine horses selected for Sydney are likely to compete here in the Doubleprint British Horse Trials Championships.

Captain Mark Phillips has questioned the tactics employed by the British Olympic three-day event squad after it was revealed that only two of the nine horses selected for Sydney are likely to compete here in the Doubleprint British Horse Trials Championships.

Only Karen Dixon, with Too Smart, and Kristina Gifford, with The Gangster II, have definite plans to tackle tomorrow's cross-country in the British Open Championship. Others may appear in the dressage and showjumping before withdrawing. All the New Zealand Olympic horses will be absent, having gone into quarantine on Thursday, earlier than originally anticipated.

The meeting, which began yesterday, was originally designated as the final outing for the British Olympic candidates. With this in mind Captain Phillips, the organiser and course designer, had consultations with Mandy Stibbe, the chairman of the senior selectors, and Yogi Breisner, the chef d'equipe.

"We did everything and more than we were asked to do to accommodate the horses and riders going to Sydney, which included minimising the effects of the hills," Captain Phillips said yesterday, "but our efforts haven't exactly been reciprocated."

According to Stibbe, changes to team plans had to be made because of the British Olympic Association's requirement to name the horses last Thursday instead of this coming Monday as originally intended.

"Once the riders knew that they were on the squad, it was human nature that they would not want to risk their horses," said Stibbe.

Stibbe was full of praise for the course. "I appreciate what Mark's done very much. It's a fantastic course and he will have done a lot for the future of the championships with the changes he has made."

Phillips, who is also the trainer of the United States squad, believes that the British horses should have had another outing as part of their Olympic preparation - because of the gap between Cornbury, where most of them last competed two weeks ago, and the Olympic three-day event starting on 16 September.

Lucinda Fredericks - now riding for Australia, which is the birthplace of her husband, Clayton - held the lead on Tina's Gold after the first day of dressage in the Intermediate Championship here yesterday. Owen Moore has the lead in the first advanced section on Lord Killinghurst, with Fredericks among the quartet lying equal third.

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