In 1992, Bowman missed a first world title when his groom put one foot and was given 10 penalties. The rules now allow one, but not two feet to touch the ground.
The Russian had come to The Hague because Nelson Mitchell had to attend his son's funeral. At the end of the five-and-three-quarter mile final hazard phase of the 15-mile course at Vlasakkers, Germany's Michael Freund, just heading Bowman in second after the dressage, moved up to lead the 44-strong field by 3.8 penalties. Freund, like Bowman, was critical of the roads and tracks phase C, where his horses 'got tired out with the wheels sinking deep into the sand,' he said. 'It was quite unnecessary with the hazards still to come.'
Bowman had to bring a last-moment substitute for his team, when seasoned wheeler, Billy, went lame, so he brought in the Lippizaner, Victor, to join his Cumberland cobs. He finished the hazards with his horses still full of fight, attributing two sticky moments by his headstrong leaders round the second and third obstacles thus: 'They are probably quicker than I am, but it cost me eight time penalties,' equal to 40 seconds.
Holland's Ijsbrand Chardon, the winner of two previous world titles, is third, ahead of Belgium's dressage leader Felix Brasseur.
Michael Whitaker failed to reach the ride off for the top four in today's show jumping finale when Everest Midnight Madness, badly off form, made three mistakes and dropped out after the first half of the third qualifying leg.
Time faults after an unexpected refusal by Chouman put out Brazilian Nelson Pessoa who then went from third to fifth, leaving Germans Franke Sloothaak on Weihaiwej, Ludger Beerbaum on Ratina and Soren von Ronne on Taggi to dispute the world title with France's Michel Robert on Miss San Patrignano. All four horses in the final are mares.