Macken's early move

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The Independent Online
Eddie Macken held the lead for Ireland after the first leg of the Volvo World Cup final was completed yesterday evening, proving that an early draw is not necessarily a serious handicap. Sixth of the 39 to jump, Macken conjured a superb round from his new partner, Miss FAN, and no one could match it.

Macken holds the advantage from the local rider, Peter Eriksson on Robin, with Britain's Michael Whitaker a close third on Everest Twostep. Another Briton, Nick Skelton on Dollar Girl, is fifth.

Miss FAN was the mount of Michel Robert when the Frenchman was silver medallist in last year's World Equestrian Games. The mare went to Macken at the end of January and, though they won the Zurich Grand Prix together two weeks ago, the Irishman wondered how she would fare in yesterday's hectic speed contest. He need not have worried, since Miss had a brilliant answer for all the demanding questions asked of her.

Michael Whitaker and Skelton jumped nippy clear rounds to finish among the leaders as they go into this evening's second leg of this three-part contest. John Whitaker (19th on Welham) and Geoff Billington (22nd on It's Otto) have more ground to make up, having incurred an eight-second penalty each after their horses lowered two fences.

Jos Lansink, last year's World Cup winner, was the biggest threat to Macken. The Dutchman was ahead on time coming into the final double on Bollvorm's Libero, but the stallion rolled a pole off the first element for a four-second penalty, which left him fourth.

The two German favourites disappointed, despite being well favoured by the draw. The Olympic champion, Ludger Beerbaum, who was third last to jump, would nevertheless have beaten Macken but for a mistake with Gaylord at the second fence.

But Beerbaum, seventh, is still in with a chance of repeating his 1993 victory. His compatriot, the world champion Franke Sloothaak, has a bigger deficit to carry forward to the next two legs on San Patrignano Joly Coeur. He had two fences down.

VOLVO WORLD CUP FINAL (Gothenburg) First leg of World Cup: 1 Miss FAN (E Macken, Irl) 61.60; 2 Robin Z (P Eriksson, Swe) 61.79; 3 Everest Twostep (M Whitaker, GB) 62.09; 4 Bollvorm's Libero (J Lansink, Neth) 63.31; 5 Everest Dollar Girl (N Skelton, GB) 63.32; 6 Souviens Toi III (R-Y Bost, Fr) 64.72. ICA Trophy: 1 Joyride (B Mndli, Swit) clear, 32.87; 2 Nistria (L Nieberg, Ger) clear, 33.85; 3 Everest Randi (J Whitaker, GB) clear, 33.94.

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