BARBURY HORSE TRIALS DAY THREE: Cook eyes Games test as Nicholson continues to set Barbury pace

This Is Wiltshire: Leaders Andrew Nicholson and Avebury compete in today's showjumping phase at Barbury Leaders Andrew Nicholson and Avebury compete in today's showjumping phase at Barbury

TRIPLE Olympic medallist Tina Cook believes her new championship horse De Novo News is ready for the challenge that awaits in next month's World Equestrian Games.

The combination provided further evidence of a burgeoning partnership by holding fourth place heading into Sunday's CIC three star cross-country finale in the St James' Place Barbury International Home Trials.

A clear showjumping round followed an impressive dressage score of 43.2, leaving Cook as leading British challenger, 8.4 penalties off a scorching pace set by reigning Barbury champions Andrew Nicholson, who is based in Marlborough, and Avebury.

Cook is the only Great Britain team member riding her world championship horse at Barbury - William Fox-Pitt, Zara Phillips and Pippa Funnell will take theirs to Aachen in Germany later this month - and it has proved an invaluable outing.

"He's good in all three phases, and as he gets stronger he will get even better in all three phases," Cook said.

"He doesn't really have a weakness. Yes, he had a mistake at Badminton (two months ago), which did surprise me, but it's Badminton and mistakes can happen.

"He wasn't worried about it, though, and I wanted to see what he was made of. To be fair, he went round Badminton really well after that frustrating mistake. He is an all-round talented horse.

"I think he is ready for it (world championship). He has done two Badmintons and one Burghley and came out of them having performed well. I think he is ready for that next step-up."

Britain will head to Normandy as defending world champions, having won the title four years ago in Kentucky when Fox-Pitt also secured an individual silver medal.

London 2012 winners Germany will arrive at Haras du Pin as firm favourites, but Cook gives short change to those writing things off as a one-team race.

"It is a strong British team," she added.

"We have all been in teams with each other at various points, and we all have vast experience. We all know each other really well, and we can all help each other.

"I have huge respect for my teammates. If they tell me something, I absolutely take it on board, and vice-versa. That is what's so nice about it - there are no egos. We all know how hard it is to get where we've got to.

"You really have to be good in all three phases, and there can be no stone unturned. It is incredibly competitive. It's not like one or two nations are streets ahead.

"I know people talk about the Germans. Yes, the Germans are strong, but there are four or five other nations that are equally as strong. Everyone has got to step up their game, and everyone is."

Nicholson - a key component of New Zealand's world championship team - followed up his superb dressage performance on Avebury of just 34.8 penalties to jump clear and retain control in pursuit of a Barbury title hat-trick.

Avebury had six showjumping fences down at the Rolex Kentucky four-star event earlier this season, but there was no hint of a repeat as Nicholson gave the 14-year-old grey a masterful ride.

Nicholson leads on 34.8, 4.8 penalties clear of American Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen, with double Olympic individual eventing champion Mark Todd, based at nearby Badgerstown, third on Leonidas II, three penalties behind Montgomery.

World number one Fox-Pitt, meanwhile, took Section C of the CIC two star category, posting a comfortable win aboard Top Biats, with Australian Christopher Burton (Wild Duchess) second and New Zealander Caroline Powell (Spice Sensation) third.

And young British prospect David Doel, from Reybridge, triumphed in Section B with Miss Caruso. Nicholson (Jet Set IV) finished second and Blyth Tait (Bear Necessity) was third.

NEWS AND PICTURES FROM THE FINAL DAY OF THE BARBURY TRIALS AT GAZETTEANDHERALD.CO.UK/SPORT AND WILTSHIRETIMES.CO.UK/SPORT TOMORROW, PLUS NEWS, REACTION AND A PICTURES SPECIAL IN NEXT WEEK'S GAZETTE & HERALD

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