Princess Anne's ex-husband refuses to quit Olympic team over affair
THE former husband of England's Princess Anne, Capt Mark Phillips, has thumbed his nose at equestrian fans in the US who criticised his affair with a rider 30 years his junior, saying he was "not sad to be leaving" as trainer of the American eventing team.
Princess Anne's 63-year-old former husband had already announced he was quitting the United States team after the Olympics. But he faced calls to resign immediately when newspapers reported in May that he was leaving his second wife, Sandy (58), for 35-year-old Lauren Hough, a fellow member of his coaching staff.
Speaking for the first time about the affair, Capt Phillips said it was "sad" that his relationship with Ms Hough had provoked such scorn.
He is in London preparing for the Olympics, in which his riders will compete against his daughter, Zara Phillips, this weekend.
He told 'Country Life' magazine: "I don't read chat rooms and all that rubbish. I have the total support of the team, that's what matters. I'm not out to win a popularity contest.
"It's sad when a sport can't get behind their coaches going into the Olympics, and if that's the future, I'm not sad to be leaving."
Capt Phillips, who has a 14-year-old daughter, Stephanie, with his second wife, said reports he had already bought a home in Florida with Ms Hough were wide of the mark.
"Aston Farm (his marital home in Gloucestershire) is home, England is home and, for the record, I don't own a house in Florida and I'm not about to buy one," he said.
"I'm going to continue working in America, but I'm looking forward to spending more time working here."
When Capt Phillips confirmed he was getting divorced, and Ms Hough confirmed she was his new girlfriend, one respected US eventing website described his behaviour as "reprehensible". Others called on him to quit straight away.
Capt Phillips, an Olympic gold medallist in three-day eventing, has been trainer of the US team for 20 years.
He reportedly told friends: "I might only be alive for another five or 10 years so I might as well be happy."
Born in California, Ms Hough is the daughter of Charles 'Champ' Hough, who won a bronze medal in team eventing at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952.
Capt Phillips also spoke about the dilemma of coaching a team which will compete against his daughter.
"I am 110pc committed to helping the USA win a medal," he said.
"But if that's not good enough, then I hope the British will be on top."