World Equestrian Games: Thomson triumphs in test: Flying start in three-day event

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The Independent Online
MARY THOMSON produced one of her best tests with King William and holds the lead for the three-day event after yesterday's first day of dressage at the World Equestrian Games here.

The British rider has an eight-point advantage over Karen O'Connor on Biko, who is on the United States team coached by Captain Mark Phillips. Edith Schless-Beine, of Germany, is lying a close third on Timothy.

King William has a tendency to get overwrought in the dressage (he jogged through most of the two walk movements at Badminton), but this time he was far more relaxed. The handsome brown gelding has been having homeopathic treatment, which Thomson believes may have helped to calm him down. 'I don't know for sure, maybe it's just wishful thinking, but he was beautifully soft and calm today,' Thomson said. She had been up at 4.45am to give King William some loosening- up work and to take the opportunity of riding him quietly around Stadium 2.

Kristina Gifford, second to go for the Frizzell-sponsored British team, seemed to be marked a little harshly for 60.4 penalties on General Jock (now 22nd). The big chestnut, who won at Bram=ham last year, produced a smooth and accurate test, which confirmed Gifford's assertion that he is 'a very obedient horse'.

Caroline Sizer, riding as an individual, is 39th on Ghost Town. She did well to keep her cool with the horse, who was always on the verge of boiling over. 'He's ready to go across country all right,' she said of her exuberant grey partner, whom she has owned since he was six months old. Charlotte Bathe and Karen Dixon, the remaining two on the British team, will be hoping to make their marks on the leader board when they ride their tests today.

Riders predict that the optimum time for Saturday's cross-country course will be desperately hard to attain, especially if the sweltering weather continues. The route twists through wooded areas, which tend to give an optical illusion. When they are galloping past trees, riders have the impression that they are going faster than they actually are.

'We will have to ride it every metre of the way,' David O'Connor said. He is partnering On A Mission (now 10th) as an individual for the United States and can afford to take chances across country, which is what he likes to do. His wife, Karen (who had his help before she moved ahead of him into second place), may have to be more circumspect as she is riding for the team.

The first day of 'pure' dressage begins today in the adjoining main stadium, a huge temporary construction that was still being completed yesterday before the evening's opening ceremony.

It will also be the venue for next week's show jumping in which Britain no longer has a reserve rider. Warren Clarke, who was chosen as reserve, is out of action with a broken leg.

WORLD EQUESTRIAN GAMES (The Hague): Three-Day Event standings after first day of dressage): 1 King William (M Thomson, GB) 42.0; 2 Biko (K O'Connor, US) 50.0; 3 Timothy (E Schless-Beine, Ger) 51.0; 4 Coeur de Rocker (D Seguret, Fr) 53.0; 5 Fancy Hill (J Bodenmuller, Swit) 53.2; 6 Navarone (P Cribb, Aus) 53.4. Other British: 22 General Jock (K Gifford) 60.4; 39 Ghost Town (C Sizer) 69.0.

(Photograph omitted)