Equestrianism: New Zealand assume control

MARK TODD disproved a widely held theory yesterday when he achieved a score of 34 penalties to hold the individual lead for New Zealand after dressage day one in the three-day event at the World Equestrian Games.

Going early - before the dressage judges have assessed the overall standard - has always been considered a disadvantage. But Todd, second to go yesterday morning, was rewarded for a lovely test on Broadcast News with 34 penalties.

Another good performance from Todd's team-mate, the individual Olympic silver medallist, Sally Clark, on Squirrel Hill, means that the New Zealanders already hold the advantage in a contest that they had been tipped to win long before the Games started.

Todd holds the individual lead from David O'Connor (a member of the US team that is trained by Captain Mark Phillips) and a little-known Australian, Stuart Tinney, with Clark in fourth place.

O'Connor, who won Badminton last year on Custom Made, is now riding the 12-year-old Irish thoroughbred, Giltedge, who "feels fabulous" and like Todd's Broadcast News should be suited by the 32-fence cross-country course which he will tackle tomorrow.

Britain are back in seventh place, but by no means disappointed after personal best scores from the first two members of the team: Polly Phillipps on Coral Cove (now 10th on 47 penalties) and Gary Parsonage on Magic Rogue (who is 29th on a score of 61.4). Neither horse finds dressage easy, but both have excellent cross-country records and are expected to move up in the placings tomorrow.

Phillipps, a practising vet who specialises in horses, has recently been making her calls by bike in order to get fit for the Games. She is amazed to be on the British team ("When you're an amateur rider like me, you never think it can happen") and she is delighted to get the dressage test out of the way.

"The dressage terrifies me, I find it the most stressful part of the competition," Phillipps said. Having been worried that Coral Cove might be "a bit too sharp", she worked him for a good five-and-a-half hours yesterday and was then concerned that she might have overdone it.

But her fears were unfounded. The horse did his best test ever ("He really tried for me") and Phillipps can now look forward to the cross-country while the remainder of the 92 competitors ride their dressage tests today.

Gary Parsonage, who was the first Briton into the dressage arena, looked harshly marked. His sometimes volatile 14-year-old mount, Magic Rogue, was obedient and accurate throughout.

Parsonage has recently been taking lessons with Richard Davison, a member of the Great Britain team competing in "pure" dressage, who finished eighth in Rome's Flaminio Stadium yesterday.

They therefore narrowly achieved their objective, since eighth place means that they are now qualified for the Olympic dressage at Sydney in 2000.

Results, Digest, page 27

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