Equestrianism; Stark sets standard

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IAN STARK, one of only two riders to tackle the speed and endurance course on two different horses yesterday at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, rode brilliant clear runs on both Arakai and Stanwick Ghost finishing inside the optimum time and adding no penalties to their dressage scores. The comparatively inexperienced Arakai visibly grew in confidence as he progressed around the 31 fences of the cross-country course Phase D, completing in 12 seconds under the minimum 12min 10sec.

Perhaps you could expect as much of The Flying Scot riding a New Zealand thoroughbred by Ring The Bell, who also sired this year's Grand National winner, Lord Gyllene. Arakai stands in 21st place, with better to come no doubt, but Stanwick Ghost, the more finished article, retains the first place he earned with the best dressage score. All the pressure was on with the best in the world pressing him, in particular the US team rider David O'Connor on Custom Made, currently second on 49.0 penalties, and the Australian Andrew Hoy with the magnificent grey Darien Powers, now fourth on 52.0. Dividing these, and further boosting the morale of the host nation, is Mary King on Star Appeal. Looking as determined and focused as ever, she guided the strong bay with tact and skill.

Sweden's Linda Algotsson, whose impressive dressage on Lafayett had left them on equal third with O'Connor, also completed the course clear, with just 3.6 time penalties to stand fifth ahead of Eric Smiley, faultless on Enterprise for Ireland, who is just 0.2 ahead of Britain's William Fox-Pitt on Cosmopolitan II. Sadly, Algotsson's compatriot, Therese Olauffon, lost her good horse Hector T who completed the course but was later found to be very lame and destroyed. Robert Lemieux, based in England but riding for Canada, impressed on the cross-country with Mark Todd's former ride Just An Ace, but picked up 4.8 penalties on the steeplechase course earlier to add to 3.2 on Phase D. Todd retired Kayem after the steeplechase to the disappointment of so many fans while current Olympic champion, Blyth Tait, added nothing to his dressage score of 56.2 and stands ninth.