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Friday, September 04, 2009  •  18:32 BST

Oliver Townend

Oliver Townend

OLIVER STORMS INTO THE LEAD

British European team member Oliver Townend and the grey Carousel Quest stormed into the lead at the end of a second gusty dressage day at The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. The combination impressed the judges to score 39.8 – the only combination to break under 40penalties. “I knew he was capable of a good test but I wasn’t expecting to break the 40 penalty barrier,” said Oliver who yesterday put in some last minute practice under the eye of trainer Ian Woodhead. “After working him for 10 minutes we decided he couldn’t go any better and left it at that.” Oliver took over the ride on the 14-year-old by Carousel – a son of Holstein jumper Caretino – from eventer turned show jumper Cressida Clague-Reading, who rode Carousel Quest to fourth place here in 2006. “He’s quite a fragile horse both mentally and physically but he is a good horse and I am glad I bought him,” said Oliver who has a five penalty lead over veteran New Zealander Andrew Nicholson. His test with Nereo was in direct contrast to yesterday’s flighty performance from his full brother Armada – in 69th place – and was rewarded with an average mark of 70%. “As you saw Armada is the more flamboyant one which goes for jumping as well,” said Andrew. “Nereo has a much better mind and is also smoother to ride across country.” It is however the first four-star event for nine-year-old Nereo one of the youngest in the field. “It is a big step up for him but he has been incredibly successful at each level – at eight he was my reserve horse for Hong Kong. The course is more difficult than last year and it will be difficult to make up the time as the galloping stretch has been taken out this year.”

Andrew’s compatriot Caroline Powell and the experienced Sea Crest 16-year-old Lenamore, are in third place just 0.2 behind Andrew. “He’s grown up a lot in the last couple of years and is now producing consistently better tests. He would win a dressage test at home, but the atmosphere has always affected him.”

The following three places are taken by yesterday’s top three and Oliver aside just 3.3 penalties separates second to tenth place.

New Zealander Annabel Wigley will be first on the cross-county course tomorrow at 11.00 with Black Drum and William Fox-Pitt the ultimate competitor with Seacookie at 16.16.

There are now 79 runners as Piggy French (GBR) and Some Day Soon (no. 16) have withdrawn as they will now replace Mary King and Imperial Cavalier on the British team to contest the European Championships in Fontainebleu at the end of the month (23-27 September). Mary had to withdraw Imperial Cavalier after a training setback. It will be a senior British team debut for the 29-year-old Leicestershire rider.