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Last Updated: Monday, 5 July, 2004, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Phillips rides into the limelight
By Matt Majendie

Up until now, talk of Zara Phillips has been more about her tongue piercings, a high-profile relationship to the jockey Richard Johnson and her place in magazine FHM's top-100 sexiest women list.

But if sources in the equestrian world are to be believed, things are set to change quite drastically.

Zara Phillips in action at Burghley last year

Earlier this year, Princess Anne's daughter made the shortlist of 14 for Great Britain's five-rider three-day eventing team but missed out because of an injury to her horse Toytown.

The signs are she has the makings of a great rider. Last year, she finished second against the world's elite at the Burghley Horse Trials, losing out to then world number one Pippa Funnell.

Even her more famous cousins have been impressed.

In a magazine interview at the beginning of the year, she said: "The boys, my cousins Prince William and Prince Harry, said, 'Oh my God, I didn't realise you were this good'."

Phillips, 10th in line to the throne, has become the new darling of British riding, thanks to both her talent and her model good looks.

But in riding circles, the focus has solely been on her competitive efforts.

Her father Mark Phillips, who won gold with the British team at the 1976 Olympics, said: "She's got natural talent on a horse, but I think to be a successful competitor, you've got to put in a lot of hours."

With a former gold medallist for a father and a mother who represented Britain at the 1972 Games, Phillips has the perfect pedigree to make it to the top, according to British performance director Yogi Breisner.

Breisner told BBC Sport: "You could say it's in the genes that she'll do well. She's certainly young enough to make a mark at a fair few Olympics in the future. And she's good enough to be a future gold medallist.

Zara Phillips
I often call my grandmother and tell her what my horse has been up to
Zara Phillips

"She's a very capable rider. She's got the hunger you need to win."

Phillips has made her name at junior level as well, winning silver at the 2002 European Young Riders Championship as well being named in Britain's world-class performance squad.

Helping her along is her horse Toytown - the two enjoy the sort of understanding envied by many of the current crop of top riders.

Phillips has made it clear it would be her dream to ride in the Olympics and she admits she has support from all areas of her family.

She told the BBC earlier this year: "My father's not at home much because he's away with the Americans, but when he is around I do ask him for tips. My mum is based here and she's around all of the time so I do get a bit of input.

"And I often call my grandmother and tell her what my horse has been up to. Although she's the Queen, she's my grandmother and we don't have a different relationship because of who she is. She knows all the horses and likes to find out what's going on."

Her potential for future success depends on her focus primarily over the next two seasons.

But one rider impressed by her achievements to date is British team-mate Pippa Funnell.

"We've never had pressure on us like Zara's had because of her background," said Funnell. "It can only make her stronger."





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SEE ALSO
Zara Phillips' dream ends
07 May 04  |  Olympics 2004


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