Todd fails to flatter

Andrew Nicholson again demonstrated his extraordinary versatility as a horseman when taking the lead at the Burghley Pedigree Horse Trials yesterday, riding Mr Smiffy. A winner in 1995 with Buckley Province, the New Zealander is always hard to beat at any level, but Mr Smiffy's main achievement previously is to have seen off a succession of riders before the tough and talented Nicholson found the key to his headstrong ways. The horse has improved rapidly since he took over .

Andrew Nicholson again demonstrated his extraordinary versatility as a horseman when taking the lead at the Burghley Pedigree Horse Trials yesterday, riding Mr Smiffy. A winner in 1995 with Buckley Province, the New Zealander is always hard to beat at any level, but Mr Smiffy's main achievement previously is to have seen off a succession of riders before the tough and talented Nicholson found the key to his headstrong ways. The horse has improved rapidly since he took over .

They have a useful 6.2 points lead going into today's showjumping, ahead of Britain's Chris Bartle on Word Perfect II, who is just 0.4 ahead of the Australian Marran Wallis with Gershwin III.

Nicholson and Mark Todd, who is in 11th position, are the only competitors here who will also ride at the Olympic Games. Todd was probably the people's favourite to win, but time faults and his dressage score leave him almost 20 penalties adrift.

The horse lost a shoe on the steeplechase course, which was replaced, but then lost another early on the cross-country. After just two minutes Todd realised he was behind time and would never be able to make it up later.

The optimum time proved too difficult to achieve, with Graham Law riding Plantagenet of Rushall coming closest with just two penalties. The dressage leader, Bartle, was not fast enough on Word Perfect, who jumped round gamely.

But only two showjumping mistakes divide the first seven competitors. They include Vere Phillipps, a relative newcomer to this sport, who rode Coral Cove, the horse from which his wife Polly fell and died last year. They went fast and clear and can expect a clear round in today's final phase.

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