Equestrianism: Ballincoola puts Fox-Pitt on course to repeat victory

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The Independent Online

William Fox-Pitt made a satisfactory start to his bid to win the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials for the second year running here yesterday when Ballincoola, the first of his two rides, held the lead at the end of the first day of dressage.

William Fox-Pitt made a satisfactory start to his bid to win the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials for the second year running here yesterday when Ballincoola, the first of his two rides, held the lead at the end of the first day of dressage.

The 11-year-old used to find this phase so stressful that Fox-Pitt had wondered whether to persevere with him, but three winters with Lizzie Murray (daughter of British Olympic dressage rider Jennie Loriston-Clarke) have made all the difference. Fox-Pitt is expected to go better still when he rides last year's winner, Tamarillo, in the dressage arena. This horse was well placed after the Olympic cross-country in Athens until it was discovered that he had chipped a small piece of bone off his stifle and had to be withdrawn. "I'm lucky to have him back," Fox-Pitt said of the 13-year-old, who has since had the offending bit of bone removed.

Two newcomers to Badminton - Milla Healey on Zarzoo and Kitty Boggis on Five Boys - are now lying second and third. Healey bought Zarzoo from a dealer in Melton Mowbray as a four-year-old and she has brought him up through the grades herself. This is the first time that she has had a four-star horse capable of tackling Badminton.

Boggis, 22, was due to compete here last year until Five Boys fractured his cannon bone a week before the event. This year's preparations were also interrupted after Boggis had a fall and the young horse she was riding stood on the top back part of her thigh.

"I had a haematoma, which has been drained and iced; it feels much better now," she said. Boggis has two sporting sisters: Charlotte, who plays polo, and Lucy, who was national under-15 champion in the pentathlon. "Lucy and I are hoping to compete at the same Olympics," Kitty said.

There may be new leaders when the dressage is completed today, before tomorrow's cross-country and Sunday's final show jumping. Some of the best horses in the world will be in action today - notably Tamarillo and Lord Killinghurst, who were first and second last year, Shear l'Eau (with whom Leslie Law won last year's Olympics) and Primmore's Pride (the winner at Lexington and Burghley in 2003 with Pippa Funnell).

Badminton Horse Trials (Glos): Standings (after first day of dressage): 1 Ballincoola (W Fox-Pitt, GB) 48.7 penalties; 2 Zarzoo (M Healey, GB) 49.3; 3 Five Boys (K Boggis, GB) 52.0; 4= WP in Limbo (C Fredericks, Aus); 4= Keymaster (M Gallerdal, Swe) 54.3; 6= Mr Pracatan (A Hoy, Aus); 6= Northern Spy (H White, US) 54.5; 8= Fenicio (A Nicholson, NZ); 8= Macloud (E Smiley, Irl) 54.8; 10 Shear H20 (L Law, GB) 55.4.

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