BARBURY INTERNATIONAL HORSE TRIALS DAY TWO: Nicholson in charge
NEW Zealander Andrew Nicholson made a blistering start in his quest for a hat-trick of titles at the St James' Place Barbury International Horse Trials.
Nicholson and his double Burghley champion Avebury will take a commanding lead into Saturday's showjumping phase of the CIC three-star class.
The Marlborough-based former world number one - Barbury winner on Avebury in 2012 and 2013 - posted a dressage score of just 34.8 penalties, opening up a 4.8-penalty advantage on American Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen.
First day leader Francis Whittington, riding Easy Target, dropped to third, level with Badgerstown-based Mark Todd and Leonidas II, and just ahead of a strong chasing pack that is headed by World Equestrian Games-bound Tina Cook and her exciting home-bred horse De Novo News.
Cook, a double Olympic bronze medallist six years ago and the 2009 European individual eventing champion with illustrious campaigner Miners Frolic, lies equal-fifth on a score of 43.2.
Cook will be part of the British team that defends its world crown in France next month, where she will be joined by William Fox-Pitt, Zara Phillips, Pippa Funnell and Oliver Townend.
"I am really excited to have bred and produced another horse to this level, and to have taken over from Miners Frolic, who was such a stalwart of the British team," Cook said.
"I never take selection for granted. Each year is very different and very special, and I feel privileged to be part of it.
"I didn't start eventing De Novo News until he was six, but he has done amazingly well in such a short space of time to have got the form that he has done.
"He was ninth at Burghley last year, but he is not the finished article yet.
"He has still got more developing, and so that is why I am so excited about him. He has got to this level and I know he has still got more to come. I am really excited about him."
It was not such a good day for Phillips, though, whose three-star dressage score of 59.2 aboard Black Tuxedo meant she was outside the top 80 heading into showjumping.
Fox-Pitt, meanwhile, took charge of Section C in the two-star competition, leading overnight on 35.8 aboard Top Biats.
Elsewhere, Reybridge youngster David Doel heads Section B with Miss Caruso, and Section D top spot is held by Christopher Burton and Nobilis 18 on 38.4, narrowly ahead of his fellow Australian Lucinda Fredericks, who is based at Little Cheverell, and Mr Sydney Rocks.
NEWS FROM DAY THREE AT BARBURY AT GAZETTEANDHERALD.CO.UK/SPORT AND WILTSHIRETIMES.CO.UK/SPORT TOMORROW