Equestrianism: Impressive Ruder takes lead after dressage

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The Independent Online

German rider Kai Ruder, on Leprince Des Bois, both first-timers here, impressed the judges with a near foot-perfect dressage test to head the leader board at the Mitsubishi Motors Horse Trials yesterday. Their 33.8 penalties put them 5.2 pts ahead of Ruth Edge riding Two Thyme, with reigning European Champion and Olympic gold medallist Kristina Cook on Miner's Frolic just 2.7 adrift in third.

Ruder, 38, is a professional rider whose father, Thomas, rode in the eventing World Championships in 1982 while brother Hans is a Grand Prix show jumper. His horse, too, is bred for the job, being sired by the English-bred 4-Star stallion Yarlands Summer Song. Le Prince des Bois, a French bred Selle Francais aged 11, is the only stallion among 83 competitors at Badminton this year and his services at stud, too, will be in demand if he can follow up by excelling across country today. The partnership's only previous effort at 4-Star level was at Burghley last year, where they finished a creditable 10th.

Conditions were ideal for competitors until it came to the final 10 of the 83 horses taking part, who had to produce their best under heavy rain. Despite the deluge Neil Spratt for New Zealand, rode an accurate test on Upleadon for fourth place, as did favourites William Fox-Pitt on Seacookie, lying sixth, and Andrew Nicholson riding Avebury, in ninth place. Both Fox-Pitt and Nicholson have two chances to take this most prestigious of eventing prizes, being well placed on Macchiato and Nereo respectively and their experience may be paramount as the rain soaked the ground, which had been perfect.

Several of the 31 obstacles have very narrow take-off areas, and any poaching that may occur could cause riders to revise their planned routes to avoid the risk of slipping.

Ruder was more than hopeful that his horse would have the confidence and strength to take all the direct routes without a problem, while Cook, too, is optimistic. "It's a galloping track, and should suit him," she said. "I'm grateful to be riding a thoroughbred."