McAuley rewarded

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Claire McAuley showed that perseverance has its reward when she rode the French-bred mare, Equity, to win the Castle Stakes on the opening day of the Royal Windsor Horse Show.

"I've been competing at Windsor since I was 18, and I usually go terribly badly here," McAuley, 26, said after gaining her first victory in the spacious arena under the granite face of the castle. She defeated Guy Goosen on Carat and last year's winning rider, James Fisher, on Pinion Voici.

McAuley regarded Peter Charles, the European champion, as the most threatening of her rivals. But the Irishman, who was last of 15 into the jump-off, clobbered the first fence on Dolly to give McAuley her long-awaited victory.

Eleven-year-old Equity was bought in Belgium three and a half years ago by Jenny Willment, of Ewhurst in Surrey, who has backed McAuley for the last five years. Equity could help McAuley to realise her ambition of riding for a British Nations Cup team. McAuley will also be competing here on Audacity, a Russian stallion.

Emma-Jane Mac rode Grin- go to the fastest round in yesterday's jump-off, but that effort was marred by a single error which left her in sixth place. Tomorrow Mac will defend the Ladies' Championship she won last year on Diamond.

ROYAL WINDSOR HORSE SHOW: Castle Stakes: 1 Equity (C McAuley) clear, 40.68sec; 2 Carat (G Goosen) clear, 41.82; 3 Pinion Voici (J Fisher) clear, 43.74. Cob Championship: Woodlands Pippin (R Stack). Reserve: Galaxy II (J Webber).