King rediscovers star turn

Mary King, who won here in 1992 on King William, made a great comeback with Star Appeal to take the lead in the Mitsubishi Motors Horse Trials yesterday.

King, who missed the last two Badmintons, and produced a second child, is trying to improve on second place in 1997 having fallen at the first fence with Star Appeal in 1996. This time she was held up on the course for 15 minutes while Kristina Gifford lay on the ground after a heavy fall from General Jock. She had also fallen from her earlier ride on The Solicitor, at the lake, but despite being concussed and bruised Gifford is not seriously injured.

King had worried that her 15-year-old horse would show his age over the 23-kilometre speed and endurance test, but she said he finished well. She stands just 2.2 penalties ahead of Andrew Nicholson, riding New York.

Nicholson, who must spend more hours per day on a horse than anyone competing, survived some exciting moments on his second ride, New York, to take over the lead from Leslie Law on Shear H2O.

Rodney Powell, riding at his best on Flintstone, pulled up several places with a fast, clear round and is closely followed by Karen Dixon with The Honourable Bob, competing in his first four-star top-graded event. They survived a "dodgy" moment, when meeting another competitor head-on. Luckily, she pulled wide while the other kept to the rails. Dixon appealed successfully against the 1.6 time penalties incurred. She stands just ahead of Mark Todd, riding at his last trials before returning to New Zealand.

A few top horses have been "excused" Badminton to preserve them for Sydney, giving others the chance to catch the selectors' eyes - Katie Parker's Cornish Envoy is one which must surely have impressed. Despite the handicap of a moderate dressage score, which left her in 66th, Parker added no further penalty on this big, striding home-bred.

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