EQUESTRIANISM: Big guns set sights on Muir

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The Independent Online
PADDY MUIR retained her overnight lead on Archie Brown when the dressage phase of the Burghley Pedigree Chum Horse Trials was completed yesterday, but the Cleveland rider now has some of the sport's big guns in close pursuit as they prepare for today's cross-country.

Andrew Nicholson moved into second place with Merillion, who has improved with every outing since the New Zealander took him over from Australia's Matt Ryan last year. Ian Stark is just 0.2pt further back on his giant partner, The Moose.

Stark, one of five top British riders who will miss next month's World Equestrian Games because of injuries to their top horses, is confident that The Moose has matured since he had a run-out at Badminton in May. He plans to take all the fast routes today except the corner of the Pedigree Chum Challenge which is situated in the main arena. "If I get that far, I'm not going to push my luck," he said.

Pippa Funnell is lying fourth on Supreme Rock, 0.2pt ahead of the Olympic champion, New Zealand's Blyth Tait, on his second mount, Aspyring. Tait said that this horse can be "too aggressive" when tackling the fences, "but if anything is going to back him off, this course will". In other words, Aspyring should treat the big obstacles with due respect.

Tait will have two mounts to ride today. Chesterfield, whose dressage marks had disappointed Tait on Thursday, was expected to be withdrawn if he was not among the top 15 at the end of the dressage phase. The horse is now lying equal 12th and he will therefore keep his appointment to go first over today's 35 cross-country fences designed by Captain Mark Phillips.

Mark Todd, the former dual Olympic champion from New Zealand, is lying sixth on Stunning, who will be tackling his first four-star track today. "He has the ability to get through it, as long as he concentrates and goes as well as he can," Todd said.

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