New Zealander Bruce Goodin riding the 10-year-old Holsteiner Lenaro was pleasantly surprised to find himself tying for the lead on the individual leaderboard after the first qualifier in the Olympic show jumping competition.

Riding as an individual only, Goodin is sharing first place with Dutch team member Jeroen Dubbeldam (Sjiem) on a score of 0.5 of a time penalty.

Germany’s 1992 Olympic gold medallist Ludger Beerbaum produced his expected quiet mastery togo clear on Goldfever,but with 1.25 time-penalties, and, less expectedly, the sole Argentine, Martin Dopazo (Calwaro), produced the only other clear round to lie fourth on 2.25.

The 10-year-old Holsteiner Lenaro, who is part-owned by New Zealand cricketer Shane Thompson, was produced by Princess Marthe-Louise of Norway, whom Goodin trains.

When the Norwegians failed to qualify for the Olympics he took over the ride in April this year.

“I am a little surprised to have started so well. The horse has matured in training, but the most I was expecting today was an eight-fault round,” he said.

Goodin, 31, is from Waikato, North Island, but has been based in Belgium for three years.

The competition certainly did not provide the “dress rehearsal” for which many leading riders had hoped. Although course-designer Leopoldo Palacios, a Venezuelan businessman whose international course-designing commitments have taken up 11 out of the last 12 months, pronounced himself “happy” with the results, only eight of the 74 starters achieved the optimum time of 98sec and none of those had less than eight faults.

Two riders were eliminated when their horses fell in the holding black sand going, America’s Nona Garson (Rhythmical) and the first competitor of the day, Saudi Arabian Ramzy Al Duhami (Saif Al Adel).

Ludger Beerbaum commented: “The ground was dead and sticky in the training competition two days ago and we had hoped that those responsible would have done more about it. If this had been a speed competition, there would have been a catastrophe. I think the course was about 10 per cent too difficult.”

Dubbeldam agreed: “When the first rider came down, it made us all a little nervous. I only had hind studs in at that stage, but I put front ones in then. It was a big course with wide oxers. It’s been about seven weeks since most of these horses have competed andI think that’s why so many top horses faulted.”

The reigning world champion Rodrigo Pessoa disagreed with the general consensus that the course was too stiff for a qualifier.

“Now that we’ve sorted out the field, they can build some stiffer courses. I don’t feel I’m at an Olympic event yet.”

Pessoa, however, was not foot-perfect either, missing his jerk on Baloubet Du Ro en route to the water and landing short in it.

“It was mainly my fault. I had him on too short a stride after landing over the big oxer,” he said.

British riders got off to a shaky start. Michael Whitaker is currently the best in equal 32nd on Prince Of Wales (9.75) and Geoff Billington, who had It’s Otto jumping with his usual reassuring spring, is 34th on 10.25, their round marred by a refusal when the horse wavered on a curving left-hand turn to a double and ran out. “My fault,” said Geoff candidly afterwards.

Team newcomer Carl Edwards(Bit More Candy) is equal 47th on 14.75, and John Whitaker, equal 66th on 24.75, has some ground to make up after an accident-prone round on Calvaro.

The stallion was jumping beautifully on the first half of the course, but, while making a slippery turn to a massive oxer, he dropped the bit, wavered and crashed through it.

Thoroughly rattled, he then took hold and ran past the water jump before ending an unhappy round with a stop at the final, 14th, fence.

“Well, we’re not giving up yet,” was Whitaker’s laconic comment afterwards. “He was jumping so well at first but crashing through the oxer unsettled him. The ground wasn’t great, but I can’t use that as an excuse. I think the long lay-off and wait for our competition to start hasn’t helped.” ,

After the razzmattazz of last week’s three-day event competition on the same site, the start of the show jumping, held in much cooler temperatures and under cloudy, damp skies, was subdued by comparison, probably because the Australian crowd does not have such high expectations of its home side. However, it had plenty to cheer about when the last competitor of the day, their Jamie Coman (Zazu) romped home with just 4.25.

Although today’s scores count towards the individual medals, the 17 countries starting in Thursday’s team competition, run on nation’s cup format, begin with a clean sheet.

Altogether 28 nations are represented, with Ireland, winner of a record 10 nations’ cups this season, the most notable absentees.

Scores after 1st individual qualifier: 1, Jereon Dubbeldam (Sjiem, NED) & Bruce Goodin (Lenaro, NZ), 0.50; 3, Ludger Beerbaum (Goldfever 3, GER), 1.25; 4, Martin Dopazo (Calwaro, ARG), 2.25; 5, Jamie Coman (Zazu, AUS), 4.25; 6eq, Maria Gretzer (Feliciano, SWE), Malin Baryard (Butterfly Flip, SWE) & Khaled Al Eid (Khasm Al Aan, KSA), 4.50; 9eq, Luiz Felippe De Azevedo (Ralph, BRA) & Thomas Velin (Carnute, DEN), 4.75; 11eq, Rodrigo Pessoa (Baloubet Du Rho, BRA) & Philippe Rozier (Barbarian, FRA), 5.00.