King leads on King William

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The Independent Online
Mary King and her long-standing partner, King William, held a slender lead 0.8pts at the end of the dressage phase of the Blenheim Vauxhall Monterey International Horse Trials, despite their failure to perform either of the new flying changes, which the horse seems unable to learn.

Tomorrow's cross-country should pose no problems for King William. King said: "Hopefully he will cruise round and enjoy himself, he doesn't owe us anything."

King moved narrowly ahead of this year's winning Badminton rider, David O'Connor of the United States. They are followed by 1992 Olympic champion, Matt Ryan of Australia, and Mark Todd of New Zealan, victor of the previous two individual Olympic titles.

All four of the leaders have an important engagement next week when they compete in the European Open Three-Day Event Championships at Burghley and they will be more than usually anxious to have trouble-free rides tomorrow.

O'Connor will be on Lightfoot, whom he describes as "a wonderful cross- country horse". The gelding's only serious problem on a cross-country course was in 1995 at Boekelo, in the Netherlands, where he was run into by an ambulance and forced to retire. O'Connor said: "We were flipped over the top of the vehicle and both of us were pretty lame afterwards."

Ryan, now lying third on Faceman, describes this year as the worst he has ever had as far as falling off is concerned. He said: "At the first three events, I went scuba-diving into water." The Australian also fell at Badminton, Punchestown and Lummen three-day events between May and early July.

Ian Stark, lying seventh here on the giant 18 hands, The Moose, has also been in the wars. After a fall at Blair Castle last month, he was strapped to a stretcher for three extremely uncomfortable hours before being allowed to sit up. He then had a slip-up on the flat during team training at Badminton last week.

Stark and King believe the two parts of the Keyhole Corner, fence 19, will be the most influential on tomorrow's course. The first part is an oval hole in thick brushwood through which horses are required to jump. This is followed by a corner, which will require both control and accuracy.

In most other respects, the course is considered to be kinder and, according to O'Connor, "more onward-going" than in previous years.

King is pleased that the show jumping, now moved to Monday morning, should have a relaxed atmosphere that will suit King William. But it does mean she will miss giving Star Appeal his final pre-Burghley gallop, scheduled for Monday.

BLENHEIM VAUXHALL MONTEREY INTERNATIONAL HORSE TRIALS: Standings after dressage: King William (M King, GB) 45.2; Lightfoot (D O'Connor, US) 46.0; Faceman (M Ryan, Aus) 46.2; Word for Word (M Todd, NZ) 49.6; Owl Creek (K Meacham, GB) 49.8; Prime Contender (O Moore, GB) 50.2.