Mary King, who was first and second here last year, rode three polished rounds to finish second, third and eighth on Star Appeal, King Solomon III and last year's winner, King William. As the best Briton, King also won the national championship for the fourth time.
Mark Phillips' course was, as always, a stern test of courage and stamina - and, with rain falling from mid-morning, the steep hills of Gatcombe Park became all the more tiring. But these conditions did nothing to dent the enthusiasm of Darien Powers, whose only problem came at the Avening Wall (the 18th of 30 fences) when he misjudged his take-off and banged a knee on the obstacle.
This agile 12-year-old grey gelding had been lying fourth after the cross- country at Badminton this year, before being retired through lameness (it later transpired that he had a foot infection) at the following morning's horse inspection. Hoy, who regards the grey as "a fabulous horse to ride across country", will now be one of the favourites for next month's European Open Championships at Burghley.
Hoy was based at Gatcombe in the early 1980s and he moved back here a week ago, to take up residence in two rented cottages, before gaining his first British Open victory. His previous best was in 1984 when runner- up to Lucinda Green, who beat him by 0.7pt.
Blyth Tait and Ready Teddy, New Zealand's individual Olympic champions, had an adventurous round when finishing in fourth place. "I started far too fast and rattled him a bit," Tait said. "He was OK to the Barn Complex (fence 13) but then the course went downhill and he began to run away with me."
Tait is not, however, anticipating a repeat performance at Burghley, where he and Ready Teddy will be part of a formidable New Zealand team. His next outing will be the weekend after next at Thirlestane Castle in Scotland, where the British and United States riders will be among those having their final trial for Burghley.
There was one fatality yesterday when Capitano, the 11-year-old mount of Leslie Law, collapsed and died from a suspected heart attack.
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