Equestrianism: Leng is too smart for Cleverly

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The Independent Online
Virginia Leng moved into the lead on Welton Houdini during yesterday's second day of dressage at the Badminton Three-Day Event, which she won in 1985 and 1989. She now holds a small 0.2pt advantage for the Mitsubishi Trophy, as the action moves from sedate dressage to today's hectic cross-country.

Though he was 'a fraction tense', Houdini delighted Leng with an obedient test that put her ahead of Tanya Cleverly, who had held a short-lived lead on Watkins. Cleverly's last instruction was to enjoy her dressage, and she responded with the best test she has ever ridden.

New Zealand's Mark Todd said that Just an Ace was capable of a better test, but he was pleased with his score that left him a close third, just ahead of the French overnight leader - Marie-Christine Duroy on Quart du Placineau. The marks are desperately close with another Kiwi, the world champion, Blyth Tait, a close fifth on 15-year-old Ricochet who is in his last three-day event.

Karen Straker, one of the favourites to win here on Get Smart, had an agonising ride on her long-standing partner, who tends to choose Badminton as the venue for boiling over in the dressage. 'He never lets me down with his fireworks here,' Straker said, after the test left her in 43rd place.

Many pundits now believe that the dressage will have more than its normal influence on the final result. The ground for today's cross-country should be good to fast and the fences are regarded as easier than usual.

BADMINTON THREE-DAY EVENT (Avon): Standings after dressage: 1 Welton Houdini (V Leng, GB) 43.0; 2 Watkins (T Cleverly, GB) 43.2; 3 Just an Ace (Mark Todd, NZ) 43.4; 4 Quart du Placineau (M-C Duroy, Fr) 44.2; 5 Ricochet (B Tait, NZ) 44.8; 6 Ballycotton (A Harris, GB) 45.2; 7 King William (M Thomson, GB) 46.0; 8 Chief (V Latta, NZ) 46.8.

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