Equestrianism: Fox-Pitt pressing ahead on Chaka

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WILLIAM FOX-PITT had moved into the lead on Chaka when the dressage phase of the Remy Martin Three-Day Event was completed here yesterday. He went ahead of Mary Thomson, who is now lying second and third on her two horses, King Kong and Star Appeal.

Fox-Pitt, 25, is eager to prove Chaka is equally effective across country when he tackles the 34 fences today. The horse retired after running out of steam on the course for last year's European Championships, but there were excuses.

'He was found to have a bacteria infection of the larynx and he had dislocated his soft palate, which obviously affected his breathing,' Fox-Pitt said. A couple of refusals at Badminton ('the second one was entirely my fault,' said the jockey) did little to restore the horse's reputation. Chaka has been in great form at the summer's one-day events and Fox-Pitt hopes for better things today.

Thomson, in the lead with Star Appeal on Thursday night, improved on her own score with her second mount, King Kong. 'He has the better movement and carriage, but he can get excited,' Thomson said of King Kong.

The nine-year-old, who was out of action for a year after straining a tendon when he won the Windsor Three-Day Event in 1992, proved that point at Saumur in the spring. 'He was squealing with delight and he had 76 penalties in the dressage at Saumur,' Thomson recalled, 'but today he was soft and amenable.' The improved behaviour was reflected in yesterday's score of 43.4 penalties.

Mark Todd, second overnight, is now fourth on Bertie Blunt. Close behind the New Zealander come Karen Dixon on her Gatcombe winner, Too Smart, and Virginia Elliot on the mare, Welton Romance.

Results, Sporting Digest, page 23