Mary King and King Solomon lead the dressage phase afterfirst day at Pedigree Burghley Horse Trials

Mary King, the last British rider to win the Pedigree Burghley horse trials, back in 1996 on Star Appeal, made a flying start to her first three-day event run this year, leading the dressage phase after the first day on her first ride, Gill Robinson and Ascot Buildings’s King Solomon.

Mary fractured her neck in a fall in May and was only given the all-clear to ride in August. The 13-year-old King Solomon has won four three-day events at two and three-star level and was fifth at Burghley in 1999, but missed last year due, first, to minor tendon trouble and then Mary’s absence at the Olympics.

Mary’s dressage test, although marred by King Solomon’s head tilting, was accurate, willing and showed plenty of contrast in pace. She has a 2.6 penalty lead over American rider John Williams on Carrick, a nine-year-old chestnut Canadian Thoroughbred. Williams, 35, is a newcomer to Burghley, his only previous four-star run being at Kentucky in April where he was 12th.

In third place is British rider Claire Phillips riding Capuchin, a horse who is usually reliable in the dressage arena and who has some good placings to his name, although nothing at this level.

New Zealander Blyth Tait and Eze are equal fourth with J-P Sheffield and Catch The Tiger, ahead of Australian Brook Staples on Master Monarch.

Brook’s compatriot and dual Olympic gold medallist Phillip Dutton is lying equal seventh on the rising star Hannigan, who was previously competed in Ireland by Sue Shortt, with the newly married Tina Cook (nee Gifford), another rider having her first three-day run this year due to injury. Tina, who damaged her knee ligaments in May, rides her Olympic reserve horse The Gangster,who has not done a three-day event for two years.

Looking ahead to the fences

General consensus on Mike Tucker’s “budget” course is that is more straightforward than is usual at this level, but there are pockets of difficult narrow fences and some unappealing twisting routes.

Britain’s A team currently leads the USA in the informal team competition, in which the proposed new Olympic format of two show jumping courses will be tested on Sunday. Some riders are understandably uneasy about show jumping twice, but Wayne Roycroft, chairman of the FEI three-day event committee, said that when the format was first tested at two-star level in Brazil, many horses jumped better the second time around.

Wayne Roycroft said: “Wemay tweak the scoring if we feel it isn’t having the right influence. Basically the IOC doesn’t want eventing to continue to have two competitions and this is a great opportunity to try out this proposal. If we feel it works, we will be proposing it in October. I think riders are about 70-30 in favour of this proposal.”

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