Horse Trials: Stark provides contrast amid chaos

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The Independent Online
IAN STARK finds himself in a 20-points lead after a dramatic Speed and Endurance phase at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials yesterday that left three riders and two spectators in hospital.

Three spectators were hurt when Australia's Stuart Tinney and Tex failed to make the turn coming out of the lake and ploughed through a crowd barrier. One woman suffered a suspected broken collarbone and a man a broken arm and they were taken to hospital in Bristol. Tinney himself was said to be suffering from shock.

The injured riders included Britain's World Equestrian Games team bronze medallist Polly Phillipps, who was airlifted to the hospital after being knocked unconscious in a fall from Coral Cove, in which she broke here collarbone. Two Irish riders also ended up at Frenchay, Eric Smiley with a suspected dislocation of the shoulder and Joanne Jarden with a suspected broken leg.

They were the most serious incidents on a day punctuated by falls, refusals, and the withdrawal of over half the competitors. Despite removing two of the original 29 fences in the interests of safety, the Badminton director and course designer, Hugh Thomas, was criticised by the sport's leading riders, who were unhappy with his new, simplified scoring system, and the twisting nature of the course.

"I felt that I was being rough on my horse, pulling him about in front of every fence because of the twists and turns," said the New Zealander Andrew Nicholson, after riding New York to fifth on 150 penalties. "I don't think that is what four-star eventing should be about. Even without the rain, I think the course was terrible."

Mark Todd, another New Zealander who retired on his dressage leader, Broadcast News, after incurring 40 penalties, was critical of the take- off areas at the fences. "It's crazy not providing all-weather take-offs, especially in this weather," he said, referring especially to the number of incidents caused by the cut-up ground at fence three.

Through the mayhem the 45-year-old Stark set off as pathfinder more in hope than confidence on the inexperienced eight-year-old New Zealand- bred Jaybee, but rose to the occasion to finish 26 seconds over the optimum 12 minutes.