Equestrianism: Nicholson upstages British duo

Andrew Nicholson brought the dressage phase of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials to a thrilling end yesterday when, last to ride his test on Lord Killinghurst, he deprived British riders of the top two places by achieving the outstanding performance of the day. The New Zealander now holds the advantage over Pippa Funnell on Cornerman and William Fox-Pitt on Tamarillo, who had shared the need until Nicholson overtook them.

Andrew Nicholson brought the dressage phase of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials to a thrilling end yesterday when, last to ride his test on Lord Killinghurst, he deprived British riders of the top two places by achieving the outstanding performance of the day. The New Zealander now holds the advantage over Pippa Funnell on Cornerman and William Fox-Pitt on Tamarillo, who had shared the need until Nicholson overtook them.

Before the two Britons rode their elegant tests in the rain - delighting eager crowds in the covered stands with the sort of performances they have come to expect from these two talented riders - Australia had been dominating the dressage phase. The Aussies are however, still in close contention with five of them among the top 10 as they prepare to tackle today's cross-country test that will be made more daunting after yesterday's soaking.

Andrew Hoy is best of the Australians in equal force on Mr Pracatan. He shares his place with Britain's Matthew Wright, at 21 the youngest rider among the 80 starters, who rode with all the aplomb of a seasoned campaigner on Mallards Treat who was formerly partnered by Nicholson.

The wet going was hardly conducive to flowing dressage tests, although the leading riders succeeded in appearing to ignore the conditions. According to Nicholson, the going was "a lot worse'' in the practice area. "It was only slushy in the arena,'' he said. As Hoy pointed out after his good dressage test: "We're only one third of the way through a very difficult competition.''

Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (Badminton, Gloucestershire): Standings after dressage: 1 Lord Killinghurst (A Nicholson, NZ) 36.6 penalties; 2= Cornerman (P Funnell, GB), Tamarillo (W Fox-Pitt, GB) 40.8; 4= Mr Pracatan (A Hoy, Aus), Mallards Treat (M Wright, GB) 41.0; 6 Kirby Park Irish Hallmark (M Jones, Aus) 42.0; 7= Bonsa Puzzle (M Ryan, Aus), Tangle Man (P Stockton, GB) 44.0; 9 Highpoint (P Tapner, Aus) 44.8; 10 Enchanted (S McLeod, Aus) 45.6.

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