Racing: New Zealand put in the clear by Todd

IT WAS New Zealand's day here, with both individual and team titles now within their sights at the World Three-Day Event Championship.

Mark Todd, twice Olympic champion, and chasing the only important prize to have eluded him, put up yet another outstanding performance to leave both himself and his country in pole position for today's final showjumping phase. They added nothing to their excellent dressage score for a total of 34.00 penalties. First, his horse, Broadcast News, must pass the morning's veterinary inspection, but there should be no worries after this smoothest of rides in a long, rain-soddened speed and endurance test.

Todd was ably supported, as expected, by the reigning Olympic champion Blyth Tait riding Ready Teddy, currently in fourth place individually, and by the defending World Champion Vaughn Jefferis riding the veteran Bounce. Tait's was a copybook round, easily competed within the minimum 13 minutes allowed. Jefferis was also clean, leaving New Zealand an impressive 31.4 penalties ahead of Australia, the reigning Olympic champions. Stuart Tinney blazed a trail for them with a dashing round on Jeepster, and the pair stand in third position individually.

The British team riders made a valiant effort to peg back a hefty dressage deficit which left them only eighth of 17 teams, 52.8 penalties behind. They now stand fifth with France third and the US fourth.

Gary Parsonage with Magic Rouge, Polly Phillipps and Coral Cove, and Nigel Taylor partnering The Frenchman II all rode clear rounds inside the time and British hopes were then concentrated on Karen Dixon with Too Smart. They set off late, after yet more rain. The horse jumped well most of the way, but was tiring quickly before falling just three obstacles from home, when they retired.

Phillipps was delighted with Coral Cove, whose only bad moment came at the first water when he banked both elements after jumping in. "I don't know how he stood up. It was horrendous," she said. "Otherwise he didn't put a foot wrong. He goes forever, a class horse and clever as a cat."

The New Zealanders rode as a team, avoiding the higher risk options yet wasting no time elsewhere. When Todd took the much slower alternative at fence four and jumped the big combinations at 23 in two parts, yet finished easily within the time, the task looked fairly easy and it was disheartening to those who hoped to make up ground on the leader. Bettina Overesch, the dressage leader, also had the German team and Olympic qualification in mind when setting off on Watermill Stream as the only ones who could finish ahead of Todd.

Germany had already lost a team member, Marina Loheit, but Overesch was faultless. The ground was deep by now, though, and their 5.60 time faults left them 5.20 penalties adrift. This allows Todd one showjumping mistake, giving him "my best chance in 20 years of being world champion".