Britain is well in the hunt in the team show jumping competition in Hong Kong, lying in equal fourth place after the first round.

They are on 16 faults with Canada behind Sweden (13), but the team is down to three men after the shock non-appearance of John Whitaker and Peppermill.

Team manager Derek Ricketts reported the stallion to have emerged from the stable in the morning in a very stiff state.

“We don’t know what happened,” said Derek.

“It’s almost as though he’s tied up, though that isn’t necessarily the problem. We’ve been working on him all day with physios, and even had him out in the break this evening, but we can’t risk a horse like this.

“It’s a terrible blow, but I couldn’t be happier with the way the others are jumping.”

The American team is on target to defend their gold medal, despite Beezie Madden’s Authentic stopping. The US is tying for the lead with Switzerland on 12 faults after an exciting first round.

As predicted, the test was been vastly increased, the course containing twists and turns, the requirement to go forward and then hold, plus a number of light poles and confusing looking fences.

The water at 4, preceded by a difficult curving line on six, seven or even eight strides, is the most influential fence.

Nick Skelton rode a masterful round on Russel but just touched the tape in the water before clocking another four faults at the oxer at 8.

“I wanted him to go on at the water but he wouldn’t and when I wanted him to hold at the oxer he wanted to go on!” said Nick.

Tim Stockdale and Ben Maher both produced excellent four-fault rounds, their horses both jumping brilliantly.

“The others told me to go slowly into the treble, and Rolette spooked a little in the middle — I’ve never felt her jump like it!” reported Ben.

“The water didn’t suit her because she’s a big horse. It was a big push early in the course and I think it unsettled her.”

Germany has just scraped into the second round, and is lying in joint eighth with Australia.

The USA’s McLain Ward on Sapphire is in jointly in the lead for the individual qualifier, with Canada’s Eric Lamaze on Hickstead.

There were seven clear rounds, including for World champion Jos Lansink, Ireland’s sole contender, Denis Lynch, and defending champion Rodrigo Pessoa, but there was considerable chaos among early riders, who tended to average a score of around 24.

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