Australia go clear as Britain slip up

OLYMPIC GAMES EQUESTRIANISM
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The Independent Online
The Australian three-day event team, riding with an impressive blend of dash and skill, galloped to a 61 points lead after the speed and endurance test yesterday.

Only sixth after the dressage, they overhauled the leaders, the United States, and left their rivals New Zealand in third followed by France and Ireland with the British team a disappointing sixth.

Britain's pathfinder, Ian Stark, was improving all the time on Stanwick Ghost when the grey missed his footing coming out of the first water. It was then impossible to jump the rails which followed and he put his feet in the ditch, pitching Stark over the fence. The pair continued so the team riders following could benefit from Stark's advice.

William Fox-Pitt, however, had an unfortunate refusal at the awkward Indian Pallisade bounce and later lost time when Cosmopolitan slipped up on the flat before the Olympic Rings. "The ground is soft on top from so much watering but hard underneath, making it slippery,'' he said. However he praised the research work which has allowed horses to start and finish phase D feeling fresh and ready. "It's probably better conditions than on a hot day in England."

Gary Parsonage justified his selection with a good steady clear round on Magic Rogue, and Karen Dixon followed with a more adventurous clear round, twice banking fences. "Luckily he's like a pony with 10 legs," she said. "I didn't take many risks as I was told to get round clear, so I had to abandon some original plans in favour of safety."

The heat fanned by a comforting breeze played only a small part in the action-packed day. It was their speed, fitness, courage and indomitable "go for it" attitude that won the day for the Australians.

Only the Frenchman Jacques Dulcy, on Upont, completed the testing course inside the minimum 10 minutes - a feat most riders said was impossible on such a twisting, hilly and slippery course. But three of the Australian team all proved faster than the rest, with their most experienced competitor, Andrew Hoy, on Darien Powers, the quickest.

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