Lochore masters `wild' Slioch

Sarah Bullen was never in danger of losing her overnight lead in the international two-star section of The Macallan International Horse Trials at Burgie in Moray yesterday. Her dressage test on Thursday with the seven- year-old stallion, Rock King, was so outstanding that nobody had a chance of overtaking her in this first phase.

Darrell Scaife retains second place on Faerie Dazzler as they go into today's cross-country, with Jamie Atkinson (runner-up in the National Young Riders Championship at Bramham earlier this month) moving into third on the eight-year-old mare, Babiole de Cochet. Atkinson, a 21-year-old student at Nottingham University, is trained by Ian Stark.

Alec Lochore (whose mother, Polly Lochore, organises the event here in the grounds of the family home) has taken over the lead in the national two-star section on his home-bred mount, Ben Slioch. The 10-year-old is a son of the mare, Loch Maree, with whom Polly Lochore had completed the daunting courses at Badminton and Burghley.

"He was so wild yesterday, I could hardly ride him," Lochore said. He had arranged for someone to lunge the horse for 45 minutes yesterday while he was busy with other mounts. It had the desired effect, with Ben Slioch producing his best ever dressage.

Lochore was just five years old in 1976 when his family first ran horse trials here. Thanks to sponsorship from the malt whisky distillers, the event has been growing in size and prestige ever since.

This year there are well over 400 horses (more than twice the number of last year) and an international two-star section is included for the first time. Alec Lochore - who designed the course here for five years before his brother, Hugh, took over - says that competitors have found the fences a little more than they bargained for in the principal contest.

"Our one-star courses have never been hugely difficult," he said. "Riders might have thought that the two-star would be a soft touch, but Hugh's made it a proper test. He had no option really. This will qualify horses for the three-star at Blenheim and they need to prove that they are ready for it."

Bullen, whose Rock King is competing in his first three-day event, described the course as the "most beautiful" she had ever seen. But she agrees that it has its demands - "I think it made all our jaws drop a bit when we first saw it."

MACALLAN INTERNATIONAL HORSE TRIALS; (Burgie, Forres, Moray): Standings after Dressage: International**: 1 Rock King (S Bullen, GB) 32.4; 2 Faerie Dazzler (D Scaife, GB) 40.8; 3 Babiole de Cochet (J Atkinson, GB) 45.2. National**: 1 Ben Slioch (A Lochore) 49.5; 2 Norton Talisman (C Hoeg-Mudd) and Mercia Hope (E Watson) 50.7. Two-Day Novice (final results) Moray Section: 1 Surprise Party (E Thompson) 34.0; 2 Jordans Luck (S Murray) 39.4; 3 Rooney II (S Nicholls) 39.8. Nairn Section: 1 Ballafayle Boy (J Johnson) 31.0; 2 Cool Greany (F Malcolm) 32.2; 3 Malachy Stone (N Roncoroni) 32.2.