Equestrianism: Fox-Pitt in the hunt at Burghley

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The Independent Online
William Fox-Pitt, riding Chaka, confounded his critics to hold on to his dressage lead at the Burghley Remy Martin horse trials yesterday, writes Mary Gordon Watson. Setting off in determined mood, this partnership had a lot to prove. Last year at the European championships they ran out of steam, thus eliminating the British team, and they were also disappointing at Badminton this year. But Fox-Pitt has retained his faith in the horse's ability and he was well rewarded. They hold a 2.6 point lead over the in-form Karen Dixon on her exciting eight-year-old Too Smart, closely followed by Mary Thomson on King Kong and the ex-world champion Blyth Tait on Tempo. Notably missing from this roll of honour is the long-time 'leader' Mark Todd on his newly acquired ride Bertie Blunt. Judging the time to perfection, they added nothing to their dressage score and looked set for a top prize until, sensationally, they were judged to have missed out a flag on Phase C, the second Roads and Tracks, and were disqualified. Todd has appealed against this ruling. Andrew Nicholson was drawn first of the 103 competitors to tackle the 34 cross country fences on the 25-kilometre speed and endurance test. He made it look easy with Spinning Rhombus, keeping up an even rhythm without appearing to worry. They never wasted an inch, nor an ounce of energy and finished just inside the time of 12 minutes, an achievement only Todd was able to emulate. This promoted Nicholson from 38th to ninth place. Next fastest was Dixon, and in Too Smart she has an exciting replacement for Get Smart in future British teams. The trials conclude with today's show jumping.