Andrew Nicholson enjoys “perfect” day at Burghley Horse Trials after brilliant cross-country ride on Mr Smiffy.

Last year’s winner Andrew Nicholson is again at the head of affairs on Mr Smiffy after a beautifully judged cross-country round. Blyth Tait has moved up to second on Ready Teddy, Mary King is third on King Solomon and Pippa Funnell fourth on Cornerman.

All are within a fence of each other, but with Burghley being the guinea pig for the proposed new Olympic format, riders have to show jump twice, the effect of which on the horsesis, as yet, unknown.

Andrew Nicholson, who described his day as “perfect” – he is also lying 11th on New York after a brilliant round – is less than happy with this arrangement. “I don’t think this is the place to be trying out new formats. We haven’t had enough notice. I fully realise that we have to find a new Olympic format, but there hasn’t been enough rider consultation.”

He said his main problem with it was not the two rounds, but having to warm up the horse twice on the day after cross-country.

Pippa Funnell, who was thrilled with the performance of Cornerman at his first four-star level event, agreed. “It might work very well, but the first I knew about this was when I read it in Horse & Hound four weeks ago.”

Blyth Tait, whose horses tend to show jump well, is rather more enthusiastic about the idea, although, like other riders, he favours a format whereby the team competition is decided after the cross-country with one round of show jumping having been performed beforehand. This idea is, however, highly unlikely to be adopted.

Cross-country mistakes were well spread and Blyth Tait admitted that the course had ridden harder than it had walked. He himself had the frustration of an early stop, at fence 3, the LeafPit drop, on his first horse Eze, who then proceeded to complete the course within the time.

Phillip Dutton’s chances went early on with a run-out at the double of Podium fences in the main arena and Ian Stark retired Rangitoto on the home stretch. Tina Cook had a disappointing early stop with the Gangster at fence 5, the Pedigree Poser, when the big gelding ran out of room after jumping the ditch.

Mary King had a heavy fall from her second horse, Star Appeal, at Capability’s Cutting and sustained a deep cut to her thigh, but she is reported to be fine for tomorrow’s show jumping. Polly Stockton, lying sixth on Eye Spy ll after a copybook round, received a drenching at the Cascade from her second horse Oscar and, in accordance with the newrule which eliminates riders if the horse has fallen, she walked home.

William Fox-Pitt will have pleased to have vindicated Moon Man, one of his favourite horses who ground to a halt at Burghley last year when they finished inside the time and rose 15 places to eighth. However, as he predicted, his better placed horse, Springleaze Macaroo, who has some Irish Draught blood, was not quite fit enough and found the distance too far, dropping down the order to 17th with 13.2 time faults.

Beale Morris, fifth on Pathfinder, is the best placed of the large American contingent, David O’Connor having withdrawn Rattle & Hum, who did not travel well and had a stomach bug, and Darren Chiacchia having fallen off RG Renegade at the Pardubice fence.

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