Equestrianism: King Samuel may be preparing to abdicate: Thomson and Nolan keep cool to take lead after dressage phase at Bramham

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The Independent Online
MARY THOMSON and Pippa Nolan shared the lead when the dressage phase of the Toyota Bramham Three-Day Event was completed yesterday. Both have won here before - Thomson in 1986 and Nolan last year - but neither seemed optimistic about staying ahead during today's cross-country and tomorrow's show jumping.

Thomson's mount, King Samuel, has been known to have the odd run-out and this level of contest is regarded as his limit. The 11-year-old chestnut gelding is therefore up for sale.

'He needs a good rider who knows his little ways and is happy to stick at this sort of level,' Thomson said. King Samuel's owner, Gill Robinson, is quite frank about the horse's limitations; she would rather he went to the right home than fetch a big price.

Nolan's mount, Cartoon II, can sometimes be a little too bold for his own good. 'He has a tendency to jump into trouble and then frighten himself,' Nolan said.

Both riders will probably opt for caution at fence 5, the Ripon Farm Services Corner. This angled wall can be taken in one leap at the corner, but Thomson and Nolan expect to take it in two separate parts.

Neither of their horses was perfect yesterday. King Samuel spooked at a marker at the end of one extended trot. Cartoon gave a buck (or 'had a whoopee' as Nolan put it) during his canter work. But experience told. Both riders kept their cool to produce tests that were otherwise excellent.

Two other experienced women, Erica Watson on Romanov and Many Stibbe of the Netherlands on Mountain Warrior, are now lying third and fourth. Leslie Law, who was leading on Haig overnight, has slipped back to equal fifth place.

Watson (who is trained by Carl Hester, Britain's top dressage rider at the last Olympics) rode Seafarer into 20th place at Badminton in 1991 and was 12th on Romanov at Compiegne in France last year.

Mike Tucker's cross-country course of 28 fences is considered to be slightly more testing than last year. 'The water is serious,' Thomson said of the Toyota Pond (fences 13 and 14).

TOYOTA BRAMHAM THREE-DAY EVENT: Standings after dressage: 1= King Samuel (M Thomson, GB) and Cartoon II (P Nolan, GB) 48.8 penalties; 3 Romanov (E Watson, GB) 52.2; 4 Mountain Warrior (M Stibbe, Neth) 52.6; 5= Haig (L Law, GB) and Menadue (J Marsh-Smith, GB) 53.0. Young Riders National Championship: 1 Vital Decision (T Boon) 46.4; 2 James Frederick (S Cutteridge) 49.2; 3 Little Victor (D Dick) 53.4.

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