King wins back title on her fun horse

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Mary King regained the British Open title when she rode her Olympic mount, King William, to victory at the Land Rover British Horse Trials Championships yesterday. For good measure she also filled second place on the promising eight-year-old King Solomon III, becoming the first rider to receive the top two prizes.

King won the title in 1990 on King Boris and 1991 on King William, who is now to become her fun horse. There will be no more major three-day events for the 13-year-old, whose show jumping has proved so distressingly fallible in the big-time atmosphere. The latest reminder of this flaw came in Atlanta, where William had eight fences down.

Yesterday, in the more relaxed atmosphere of Gatcombe, King William had the best dressage score followed by a single error in the show jumping and he was lying third at the start of the cross-country.

King's only worrying moment on the bay gelding came between the second and third fences when she hit her knee on a tree ("I thought, please don't fall off") but the horse sailed over all the fences.

King Solomon, who was slower than William, retained second place after Rainbow Magic (who had been in the lead with Pippa Funnell) had a refusal going into the Land Rover Splash, the 22nd of 27 fences. This mistake was entirely due to inexperience on the part of the talented seven-year- old horse.

Andrew Nicholson of New Zealand eventually filled third place on Dawdle - who is by the stallion, Saunter, and certainly no slow-coach. But the finest round of all came from 17-year-old Song and Dance Man, the mount of Kristina Gifford, who bowled round the cross-country course in the fastest time of all.

Earlier, Gifford achieved the second leg of a double when she won an advanced section on the seven-year-old State Diplomat. On Saturday, she had ridden Harbinger (previously trained as a steeplechaser by her father, Josh Gifford) to win the British Intermediate Championship.

LAND ROVER BRITISH HORSE TRIALS CHAMPIONSHIPS (Gatcombe Park, Glos) Final results: British Open Championship: 1 King William (M King, GB) 47 penalties; 2 King Solomon III (M King, GB) 51; 3 Dawdle (A Nicholson, NZ) 52. British Intermediate Championship: 1 Harbinger (K Gifford, GB) 42; 2 Overton Sunrise (S Elliott, GB) 44; 3 The Artist (W Fox-Pitt, GB) 44. Advanced Section One: 1 Vambi Charboniere (M Todd, NZ) 45; 2 Alater Pedis (B Staples, Aus) 45; 3 Tawny Owl (W Fox-Pitt, GB) 45. Advanced Section Two: 1 State Diplomat (K Gifford GB) 47; 2 Man of Stars (B Davidson, US) 50; 3 Normandy Faer (M Ryan, Aus) 51.