Equestrianism: Fuchs to the front in risky business

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MARKUS FUCHS decided that valour was the better part of discretion in yesterday's speed competition, the first of the contests which count towards the show jumping championships at the World Equestrian Games here.

The Swiss rider thrived on taking risks with the chestnut gelding, Interpane Goldlights, and he now holds the advantage over Nick Skelton of Britain in the individual standings. By contrast, Skelton had appeared to take few chances. He kept the mare, Everest Dollar Girl, moving forward in a good rhythm and she responded by jumping a lovely clear round.

Philippe Rozier, lying third on Baiko Rocco, was the best of the Frenchmen, who are defending their world team title with vigour. Two more of them - Roger-Yves Bost and Michel Robert - finished in the top 10 to give France the overnight lead for the team championship.

Jon Doney, the British course designer who is responsible for the show-jumping fences here, contrived a subtle test yesterday. There were no bogey fences (some riders may even have been lulled into the belief that the course was fairly easy) and, as a result, it produced an absorbing contest which tested the riders' brains as well as their talent.

Michael Whitaker made only one mistake, at the sixth of 14 fences, on Everest Midnight Madness. 'I think I was the only rider to have that one down,' he said. 'I was thinking more about the two that followed and probably didn't respect it enough. After that, I knew I really had to go.'

And go he did, finishing with the second-fastest time of the day to take ninth place despite incurring the seven-second penalty for his single error. John Whitaker, his elder brother, had one mistake on Gammon, who removed a section of red wooden topping which represented the ring on a wall of yellow cheese at fence No 10.

The Dutch theme included the windmill water jump, where Kelly Brown made her first mistake on Alfredo - although it was not apparent to her supporters because there was no splash. The grey horse had seemed to be heading for a clear round until lowering the last two elements of the final treble.

Brown's disappointment was nothing compared with that of the defending world champion, Eric Navet. The Frenchman had a misunderstanding appoaching the two options of the cheese fence with his ebullient stallion, Waiti Quito de Baussy, and the horse stopped there. Having lost the rapport with his rider, Quito lowered three of the remaining fences. Navet is now lying 71st of the 86 starters.

WORLD EQUESTRIAN GAMES (The Hague): Show jumping (first leg of championship): 1 Interpane Goldlights (M Fuchs, Swit) 78.48sec; 2 Everest Dollar Girl (N Skelton, GB) 82.62; 3 Baiko Rocco V (P Rozier, Fr) 82.82; 4 Schalkaar (E Macken, Irl) 82.91; 5 San Patrignano Weihaiwej (F Sloothaak, Ger) 83.32; 6 Souviens Toi (R-Y Bost, Fr) 83.33. Other British results: 9 Everest Midnight Madness (M Whitaker) 85.51; 23 Everest Gammon (J Whitaker) 90.61; 49 Alfredo (K Brown) 107.66. Teams: 1 France, 8.37 faults; 2 Germany, 8.88; 3 Switzerland, 9.67; 4 Great Britain, 11.64; 5 Brazil, 13.28; 6 Ireland, 16.13. Four-in-hand driving (standings after first day of dressage): 1 M Freund (Ger) 36.0pts; 2 H Ruschlin (Swit) 39.2; 3 H de Ruijter (Neth) 50.4. British result: 11= A Holder, K Basset 59.6.