Equestrianism: Murray pots top spot equa24

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Lucinda Murray has taken over the lead in the Bowmore Blair Castle Horse Trials on the eight- year-old Simply Red II, whose concern about flowerpots and flagpoles seemed to have waned by the time he entered the arena.

"He's had plenty of work since we arrived and he settled well," Murray said. "It helped that there were plenty of flowerpots around the arena, when there is only one of them he can't take his eyes of it."

Murray bought Simply Red in May as a replacement for Beacon Hill, who was sold to Spain. She will show some discretion on today's cross-country with her new partner (especially at the Bruar Water Splash, fence 15) aware that the horse has had a couple of recent problems jumping out of water.

Murray moved ahead of Leslie Law, who is now lying second on the overnight leader, Perryfields George, and fourth on Matt Butler. In between these two is Diana "Tiny" Clapham, who rode in the British Olympic team in 1984, on Sydney James.

Law would have ridden in this year's Olympics but for New Flavour bruising a foot before the competition began. Nicky Coe, who started New Flavour on his eventing career, also rode Matt Butler in his earlier contests. Diana Fitzroy, who is one of New Flavour's joint owners, also owns the seven-year-old Matt Butler.

Supreme Rock, with whom Pippa Funnell is lying equal fifth, knocked over three boards at the side of the arena during his counter canter. The rider and judges smiled forgivingly at this evidence of immaturity from Emma Lewthwaite's eight-year-old horse, who came over from Ireland two years ago.

"He has huge scope, you could jump a house on him," Funnell said. Like virtually everyone else, her main worry on today's course of 24 cross- country fences centres on the 19th obstacle, the Bowmore Steps, which has two uphill steps to an arrowhead. Last year there was an easier option, which is only available to competitors in the Junior European Championships this time.

The juniors are still led by the overnight leader and sole representative from Denmark, Laerke Larson on Bad Bally. But her advantage has been reduced by two Britons, Emma Thompson (on Fair Dinkum) and Sally Atkinson (on Bratton Fleeting Moment) who both produced splendid dressage tests yesterday. Germany leads for the team title, with Britain close behind in second place.

BOWMORE BLAIR CASTLE HORSE TRIALS (Blair Atholl, Perthshire) Standings after dressage: 1 Simply Red II (L Murray, GB) 40.6 penalties; 2 Perryfields George (L Law, GB) 42.4; 3 Sydney James (D Clapham, GB) 43.6; 4 Matt Butler (L Law, GB) 44.0; 5= Supreme Rock (P Funnell, GB) and Oscar (C Bartle,GB) 44.6.

JUNIOR EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP Individual: 1 Bad Bally (L Larson, Den) 43.6; 2 Fair Dinkum (E Taylor, GB) 44.2; 3 Bratton Fleeting Moment (S Atkinson, GB) 44.8. Teams: 1 Germany 148.2; 2 Great Britain 153.6; 3 Belgium 169.6; 4 Italy 173.6; 5 France 179.2; 6 Ireland 190.0.