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Townend Goes One Better
Chatsworth, England
Photo: Anthony Trollope/StockImageServices.com

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Oliver Townend (GBR) and Flint Curtis
Oliver Townend went one better than last year and won the FEI World Cup Eventing qualifier at the Chatsworth Nissan International Horse Trials (GBR) on Flint Curtis, in the process keeping his Olympic selection chances alive.

His stylish performance may yet prove a useful lever - second at Chatsworth last year, second in the 2007 FEI World Cup Eventing rankings and a member of the gold medal team at last year's FEI European Championships, Townend, 26, is currently only on the first reserve list with the grey Flint Curtis.

Townend was only 12th after Dressage at Chatsworth, but the optimum cross-country time is never achievable over Mike Etherington-Smith's big track on the undulations in the Duke of Devonshire's beautiful park and he pulled up to fourth by being twice as fast as his nearest rivals and the only rider with penalties in single figures (6.8).

"I ran him in a national intermediate competition only the week before and he wasn't really inspired – what he likes is a real challenge," explained Townend. "Flint likes Chatsworth, the big fences and galloping course, and this really suited him. The two World Cup qualifiers, here and at Burnham Market [GBR)], were my main focuses this spring, and now we'll have to see what happens."

Yet again, Chatsworth's final show jumping phase, which attracted a huge crowd, proved influential. Di Boddy, the designer, had produced a technical track which took some riding and any horse perhaps not on form after the cross-country paid the penalty.

Poor Ruth Edge (GBR) must have had a feeling of déjà vu – she had led last year on Two Thyme (with whom she is also a first reserve for Hong Kong) before falling foul of the coloured fences, and history was to repeat itself.

This time, the best dressage score of 41.4 plus 12.8 time penalties on Mr Dumbledore, the 2005 Bramham and Boekelo winner under William Fox-Pitt, had given Edge a 0.5 lead over Pippa Funnell (GBR) on Ensign.

But Mr Dumbledore, perhaps feeling tired after his cross-country exertions, hit five rails to drop to 12th. But neither Funnell, nor Polly Stockton, lying third on Westwood Poser, were able to capitalise. Funnell had two rails down with Ensign, with whom she only got as far as the fifth fence at Badminton the previous week, so remained in second, and Stockton dropped to 11th with four fences down.

So, in an exciting finale, Townend became the surprised winner and William Fox-Pitt, who also jumped clear, rose from 11th to third on his Burghley winner, Parkmore Ed, one of the three horses with which he is selected for the British Olympic team.

There were 22 clear rounds from the 33 cross-country starters. Heelan Tompkins (NZL), whose Olympic bid has brought her to Britain from New Zealand, withdrew her Kihikihi winner Sugoi before cross-country.

RESULTS
1 Oliver Townend/Flint Curtis (GBR 53.1 + 6.8 + 0 = 59.9
2 Pippa Funnell/Ensign (GBR) 42.7 + 12 + 8 = 62.7
3 William Fox-Pitt/Parkmore Ed (GBR) 49.6 + 15.6 + 0 = 65.2
4 John-Paul Sheffield/Crown Farm Consort 53.1 + 10 + 4 = 67.1
5 Chris King/The Secret Weapon 47.6 + 15.5 + 4 = 67.2
6 Laura Collett/Rayef 47.3 + 4.4 + 8 = 69.7

STANDINGS AFTER FIVE EVENTS
1 Clark Montgomery (USA) 160 points
2 Oliver Townend (GBR) 114
3 Heelan Tompkins (NZL) 100
3 Heidi White Corty (USA) 100
3 Francis Whittington (GBR) 100
3 Michael Jung (GER) 100
7 Karen O'Connor (USA) 87
8 Pippa Funnell (GBR) 85
9 Allison Springer (USA) 80
10 William Fox-Pitt (GBR)


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