Equestrianism: Black's dressage delight

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STUART BLACK, the sole Canadian competing at the Badminton Horse Trials, rode Market Venture to one of the best dressage tests ever seen in three- day eventing when he took the lead here yesterday.

The 12-year-old horse (bred in England, as was his rider who comes from Macclesfield) produced a wonderfully soft and fluent test, which included two perfect flying changes.

Black now leads from two riders sharing second place: New Zealand's Mark Todd on Broadcast News, with whom he won last year's European Open title, and Owen Moore, at present the best of the home riders on his newly acquired mount, Lightfoot. Chris Bartle, who trains the British event team for dressage (and has recently helped Moore in that capacity) is fourth on Word Perfect II.

Black, who moved to Canada in 1977 at the age of 17, has had recent disappointments. Last year, when he was due to compete here for the first time, Market Venture was found to have an abscess the day before the horse inspection and had to be withdrawn.

This year, Black and his mount arrived in England two and a half weeks before Badminton "in case anything went wrong again". The horse took the plane journey and everything else in his stride, so much so that the charged atmosphere is a positive help in the dressage arena. "It picks him up and brings out a bit of flair," Black said.

The standard of dressage was higher than on Thursday and overnight leader, Daisy Dick, had slipped to 12th by the time this phase was completed.