Rivals hand title to Muir

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The Independent Online
Paddy Muir gained the greatest triumph of her career yesterday, when she progressed from third overnight to win the three-star Blenheim Vauxhall Monterey International Horse Trials on her home-bred grey gelding, Archie Brown.

Having jumped one of only seven clear rounds in yesterday's final show jumping, the 34-year-old Muir watched her two remaining rivals hand her the top prize. Bruce Davidson, the former dual world champion from the United States, took a small brick out of the second fence with Heyday, before Mary King had three errors on the all too predictable King William, with whom she had held the overnight lead.

Show jumping has always been William's Achilles' heel. Yesterday, as he cleared the first nine of the 13 fences, there were hopes that he might yet surprise us. But, having dislodged a rail from the 10th fence, it seemed inevitable that more mistakes would follow.

"It unsettles him when he has one down, he then loses confidence," King said. She was nevertheless delighted to finish third, one place below Davidson who will be a member of the strong US team at this week's European Open Three-Day Event Championships at Burghley.

King finished just ahead of Leslie Law on Perryfields George, with Ian Stark (who moved up no less than eleven places) fifth after a clear round on The Moose. The talented 17-year-old Ruth Friend finished sixth on Ice Dancer II, with whom she won the national two-star contest at Burgie in June.

Before her victory here, Muir's biggest wins were in the national three- day event at Osberton in 1991 and the one-star contest at Burgie last year. She was also runner-up here in 1995 when riding Maisy Brown, another of the horses bred on the family farm in Cleveland.

Muir has lost count of the number of horses bred there - "there's a lot kicking around at home". She has already evented seven or eight of them and there seems to be an unlimited supply of youngsters waiting to be introduced to the sport.

Her winning mount, Archie Brown, has jumped clear three times around the four-star course at Badminton - but the 13-year-old will not be returning to the big event in Gloucestershire. "He finds the distance a bit of a struggle, so he'll do three-star events from now on," Muir said.

Davidson, on the other hand, is on the four-star trail. He is delighted that his own country will be introducing an event of this status in Kentucky next April - to add to the long-established British contests at Badminton and Burghley, which are the only other four-star events on the calendar.

"The whole world is delighted about Kentucky and I hope they all back it," Davidson said. "It has a super course and as nice a site as you could find anywhere." The course is designed by Mike Etherington-Smith, who is also responsible for the cross-country fences here.

BLENHEIM VAUXHALL MONTEREY INTERNATIONAL HORSE TRIALS: 1 Archie Brown (P Muir, GB) 53.6 penalties; 2 Heyday (B Davidson, US) 59.05; 3 King William (M King, GB) 60.2; 4 Perryfields George (L Law, GB) 60.95; 5 The Moose (I Stark, GB) 62.4; 6 Ice Dancer II (R Friend, GB) 63.0.

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