Custom Made makes running

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David O'Connor and Custom Made, the winning partnership at this year's Badminton Horse Trials, now hold the lead for the United States in the European Open Three-Day Event Championships.

O'Connor, the second last of 79 competitors in the dressage, overtook Ireland's Lucy Thompson, who had made a fine start to the defence of her European title with a splendid test on Welton Romance, who is now just 0.2pt behind the leader.

"She has natural flair, she gave her all and sparkled," Thompson said of the mare, who missed last year's Olympic Games through a leg injury. This is therefore her first three-day event since she won the 1995 European Open in Italy.

Britain's defence of the team title began satisfactorily. With all four team members now in the top 12, the British are ahead of the United States and New Zealand, with the Netherlands in fourth place and the best of their European opponents.

Christopher Bartle, lying fifth on Word Perfect II, is the highest placed of the home riders. Having finished sixth in "pure" dressage at the 1984 Olympic Games, he has no problem with the two flying changes, which were introduced into the three-day event test this year. Word Perfect gave an all too rare demonstration of how the movement should be executed.

Mark Todd, at present the best-placed New Zealander in sixth place on Broadcast News, is one point ahead of Britain's William Fox-Pitt who is seventh on Cosmopolitan II. Todd's compatriot, the reigning Olympic champion Blyth Tait, could manage no better than 21st on Ready Teddy, whom he rode with the utmost tact.

Today's cross-country could bring a major re-shuffling in the order. "It's a very strong course, in some ways it's tougher than Badminton," O'Connor said, after his outstanding dressage, which was one of the best that Custom Made has ever done.

Fox-Pitt is hoping that he will be able to settle Cosmopolitan in time to cope with the problems at the Leaf Pit Log and the Kennel Tree Stumps, fences three and four. The horse, who is naturally exuberant, will need to be concentrating if he is to answer these early questions.

Results, Digest, page 29