Equestrianism: King leads British charge

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The Independent Online
Cross-country day at the Burghley Pedigree Chum Open European Championships proved a thrilling contest, with the British team making a brilliant comeback to take the lead with three of the four riders clear and inside the optimum time.

This proved a remarkable achievement, unmatched by any other team, over a course which fully tested the abilities of the best in the world. New Zealand are in second place, despite single refusals from Andrew Nicholson on Dawdle and Sally Clark with Squirrell Hill, while Olympic champions Australia are lying third before today's showjumping finale.

Mary King set the standards for Britain, riding her last year's Burghley winner Star Appeal, and their round was everything we could hope to see, both horse and rider clearly confident of each other. The horse, jumping clean and boldly, happily obeyed a well-laid plan, never questioning. His powerful, rhythmic stride was deceptive as they finished inside 11 minutes 28 seconds without appearing to hurry. King expressed relief afterwards: "I never realised how much the pressure had built up until I'd finished."

It was soon obvious that this was a true championship course, with even Mark Todd, leading the individual competition on Broadcast News, opting for some of the longer but safer alternative routes. Their speed and economy of effort made the difference as they added nothing to their 44.2 dressage penalties.

Bettina Overesch-Boker of Germany is a mere 0.4 behind Todd in second. Britain's William Fox-Pitt is a close third less than a mark behind with Cosmopolitan II after a brilliant ride which retrieved British fortunes as Christopher Bartle had an unfortunate fall at fence.

Earlier, Ian Stark was thrilled with the inexperienced Arakai whom, he pronounced "the best I've ridden. He's amazing, green, but so clever and neat."

There was one black spot on the day. The Canadian rider Claire Smith suffered a heavy fall in which she incurred head and spinal injuries and was airlifted to hospital in Nottingham.