Equestrianism: Australian trio send Olympic warning

Megan Jones was the best of the Australian riders who filled the top-three places in the Badminton Horse Trials when the first day of dressage was completed yesterday.

Riding at Badminton for the first time, she leads on Kirby Park Irish Hallmark from Matt Ryan, the 1992 Olympic champion, on Bonza Puzzle with Paul Tapner in third place on Highpoint. Pippa Funnell, the best of the British, is lying fourth on Viceroy II. Jones woke her parents at their Irish Sport Horse Stud near Adelaide to tell them the good news.

The Australians have a fine Olympic record having won the team championship on the last three occasions. "Let this be a warning card," Ryan said yesterday. "We are focused on winning our fourth team medal."

Jones and Kirby Park, a giant of a horse at 17.2 hands, had been equal first after the dressage at last year's Eventing World Cup at Pau in France. She dropped back after a steady cross-country round, mainly because the ground was wet and the horse was not wearing studs on his front shoes. He will have them on tomorrow and Jones intends to push on. "I've always wanted to come to Badminton, it's fantastic here," she said. She had to sell horses in order to make the long journey and she is hoping to be rewarded with a place on the Olympic team.

Ryan's Bonza Puzzle, who is his likely Olympic mount, has shown impressive cross-country form at one-day events this year. Tapner, who has been out twice a week following the local hunt, believes that he knows every inch of the ground which could be a handy advantage.

Funnell had led after the morning session with Sue and Lizzie Bunn's stallion, Viceroy, who is giving his enthusiastic owners their first runner at Badminton. There is, however, a slight question mark concerning his speed and stamina.

"You get into the course nicely enough," Funnell said, referring to Hugh Thomas's 31-fence course that they will tackle tomorrow. "After that questions come one after the other." She is particularly concerned about the complex at Huntsman's Close (fences 21 to 25) and by the serious ditch that follows the Elephant Trap towards the end of the course.

Badminton Horse Trials (Glos): Standings after first today of dressage: 1 Kirby Park Irish Hallmark (M Jones, Aus) 42.0 penalties; 2 Bonza Puzzle (M Ryan, Aus) 44.0; 3 Highpoint (P Tapner, Aus) 44.8; 4 Viceroy II (P Funnell, GB) 47.0; 5 The Psephologist (B Thomas, GB) 48.6; 6 Moon Man (W Fox-Pitt, GB) 49.0; 7 Master Fred (R Waygood, GB) 50.8; 8 Private Colin (S Griffiths, Aus) 51.6; 9 Comanche (J Robinson, GB) 52.4; 10 Shear H20 (L Law, GB) 53.8.

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