Dixon and Todd poised

Equestrianism
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The Independent Online
Equestrianism

GENEVIEVE MURPHY

reports from Burghley

Frances Hay-Smith retained her lead on Jabba the Hutt at the end of the dressage phase of the Burghley Three-Day Event, but she now has two of the world's best riders hard on her heels.

Karen Dixon and Too Smart, who were third here last year, moved into second place after a soft and relaxed test that was the antithesis of the horse's performance at Badminton in May. New Zealand's Mark Todd is lying third on his new partner, Watkins, who has been round the Burghley course on five previous occasions with Tanya Cleverly.

Dixon had been worried since Too Smart's explosive performance at Badminton. "I've been working him all the hours God gave me," she said. The hours of work here yesterday and on Thursday paid dividends when the alert little horse stayed calm in the arena and showed his natural ability.

Todd had his first ride on Watkins at Thirlestane Castle two weeks ago. Cleverly had been finding it difficult to get the 15-year-old chestnut to shorten his stride as and when necessary on the cross-country. He had one refusal at Badminton and another at Gatcombe as a result.

"He's a big horse to get organised," Todd said. Watkins may also be on the large side for The Keyhole, a small circular hole in a large hedge that horses will be required to jump through. "I hope we'll fit through," Todd said of this fence, which is the 23rd of 35 in today's cross-country.

Christopher Bartle, the British three-day event team's dressage trainer, is on the massive, 17.3 hands Castle Hill II, and he is glad to be going towards the end of the cross-country. "I'm hoping that the keyhole will be much larger by then," he said.

Bartle was delighted when Castle Hill moved into joint sixth place yesterday. He regards his partner as his "fun horse", despite being knocked out by one of Castle Hill's hindfeet after a recent fall at Auchinleck.

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