New York thrills Nicholson

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The Independent Online

What had looked a brave decision earlier this week, to proceed with the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials when the grounds were still impossibly sodden, turned into a great day of entertainment for spectators and most of the 90 competitors. Conditions were near perfect, and the course adjusted to allow for the less qualified to compete.

Andrew Nicholson, who must spend more hours 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 stood 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.

Dressage leader Andrew Hoy looked to have an outstanding chance to retain advantage on the beautiful, big, grey Darien Powers, but a single error at the bullfinch fence 18 devastated him. "I can't remember when the horse last had a cross-country fault," said Hoy later, who blamed himself for a moment's relaxation. "I allowed it to happen. I just sat there, no leg on, a little too quick. He's one of the great horses and didn't deserve that. I'm really sorry for all the support team and the owners."