Britain’s riders started this year’s Royal International in great form by taking the first three places in the Refco Chase.

Heavy rain left the going in the International Arena quite holding, but judicious rolling and filling in meant that a huge field coped well.

John Whitaker held the lead for a long time on his forthcoming Nations Cup ride, Exploit Du Roulard, but his had to give way to fellow Yorkshireman Scott Smith, who hurtled round on the British team reserve Cabri D’Elle to win by 4.5sec.

Scott was pleased with Mike Dawson’s 15-year-old stallion, who had had a quiet start to the year due to his duties at his owner’s Allerthorpe Park Stud, near York.

“He’s now ready to go and I’ve put my name down for every international show I could. It’s always nice to ride for your country,” said Scott.

David McPherson, who finished third on Crocket 28, was also in the line-up with Bob’s Diamond in ring two’s Brighton Speed Stakes, beaten only by American star Mclain Ward on the good mare Goldika.

This class was also a qualifier for the speed grand prix and included many Derby-type fences, which not all of a big field found to their liking.

The British team of John and Robert Whitaker, Mark Armstrong and Nick Skelton now has it all to do in tomorrow’s Nations Cup after being drawn first to go of the eight teams.