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Aussie Eventers break WEG medal drought

28 August 2006

It’s a long way to the top and for Western Australia’s Clayton Fredericks it’s been a long time coming. Now, having won individual silver and team bronze in Three-Day Eventing at the World Equestrian Games in Germany, he’s hoping to be at the top for a long time.

Clayton, riding Peta and Edwin McAuley’s talented 11-year-old Ben Along Time, kept his cool and left all the showjumping poles untouched, while the three riders ahead of him in the standings overnight knocked down rails.

The clear round moved the pair up from 4th after Saturday's cross-country to snare the coveted silver for themselves and help Australia to its first Eventing world championship medal in 20 years and its first ever WEG medal in the sport.

“We found this horse [as a four-year-old] and we named him Ben Along Time. I thought it would be an appropriate name because I just had a gut feeling that this horse would be the one that would take me all the way,” Clayton said.

“I thought ‘by the time I get this horse to the top it will have been a long time’ – let’s hope I end up saying it’s been a long time at the top.”

South Australia’s Megan Jones on her homebred Kirby Park Irish Jester, also one of the 14 riders to showjump clear, finished 16th, while three-time Olympic gold medallist Andrew Hoy, riding Tom Attwood and Richard Constant’s Master Monarch, had one rail, which put him in 22nd place.

A bruised Sonja Johnson, who was knocked unconscious in a fall on the cross-country course yesterday, said “these guys have done a fair bit to improve my headache”.

“They’ve done a great job so I was very lucky to be part of it – thanks guys for my medal.”

Two-time Olympic gold medallist Phillip Dutton, riding as an individual on Bruce Duchossois’s Connaught, had two rails down to finish 30th.

Hoy, a key member of Australia’s back-to-back gold-medal-winning Olympic Eventing teams and individual silver medallist at Sydney, said it was great to break the WEG medal drought.

“The Olympics has been fantastic for us but world championships just haven’t worked for whatever reason,” Andrew said.

“I don’t think there’s a formula as to why it’s worked and why it hasn’t. We put in the same effort all the time and Wayne Roycroft, our team coach, and the management team have always worked equally as hard regardless of whether it’s a world championship or Olympic Games.

“It’s absolutely wonderful for us to break this jinx.”

Germany took the team gold medal and Zara Phillips, part of the silver-medal-winning British team, was crowned individual world champion on Toy Town, with America’s Amy Tryon taking the bronze on Poggio.

Phillips, 24, who is the Queens niece will head to Beijing as one of the favourites.

Fredricks last rode for Australia as an individual at the Open European championships in France in 1995. He came close again in 1996 but Bundaberg injured his leg in the final gallop before the squad flew out for the Atlanta Olympics.

Then tragedy struck when his promising young horse Boundalong was put down in 2003 after breaking its leg in a road accident.

“There’ve been a couple of times in my career when I’ve had it all in front of me and made a cock-up and everyone’s seen it. I’ve worked a lot on all aspects of my riding,” the 38-year-old said.

“It’s just great to finally have a major team thing. It’s taken a long time but I think you appreciate it more that way. If suddenly you’re on the team as a young person maybe you don’t appreciate how hard it is to get there. I just feel I’ve got the tools now to do it.”

Fredricks, who lives near Wiltshire in England, was 2005 World Cup Champion and was recently crowned 2006 British Open Champion as well as winning Chatsworth CIC-W three-star in England and Saumur CCI three-star in France.

His equine partner, Ben, “is a bit of a pony” in that he likes doughnuts and biscuits, and, evidently, crowds, as he proved today in front of 30,000 people.

“He’s just a show-off. He goes in that arena with all those people and just says ‘look at me’.”

But he also “can get quite excited about the whole affair’’ and with that in mind, Clayton jumped only six or so fences in his warm-up. He paid credit to Wayne and assistant coach Sam Lyle for trusting his feeling that he shouldn’t overdo it.

Equestrian Federation of Australia

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