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Bravo Bettina
Pratoni, Italy
Bettina Hoy (GER) and Ringwood Cockatoo
With a personal Dressage best of 27.1 with Ringwood Cockatoo, who at 16 is one of the oldest horses to compete in Pratoni, Germany's Bettina Hoy takes the lead of the 2007 FEI European Eventing Championship. A much applauded performance by French rider Nicolas Touzaint on his grey gelding Galan de Sauvagère puts him in second place (29.4). Defending European and reigning world champion Zara Phillips on Toytown is third only 0.4 points behind Touzaint (29.8).

"This is the best score I have ever had with Ringwood Cockatoo," Bettina said still surprised by her fantastic performance. "He was brilliant and I knew I really had to help him through today because he tipped over this morning and got a bit of a fright, but he was just brilliant, a cool customer and so brave. I was very lucky to compete today at all.

"I completely understand not being included in the team, and all the members have been very active and successful this season - it was a fairly straight forward decision. It is a very different feeling to be riding as an individual rather than for the team. There's also a greater freedom when you're riding as an individual, so I can make the choices for Ringwood Cockatoo and myself without any team orders, or chose when I go for the Dressage..."

Nicolas Touzaint was another happy rider. Galan de Sauvagère has been preparing consistently throughout the year for this championship and today's result bears witness to the thoughtful planning. Preparation began early in the year with a national event followed by CIC-W 3* Fontainebleau which the pair won. They proceeded on to CCI 3* at Pratoni which served as the test event for this championship. "This was very helpful since we got acquainted with the surroundings and the particularly hilly Pratoni going." Galan went on holiday to celebrate this new victory. In July the pair were the best at the CIC 3* Vittel which was followed by a national event they do every year.

The camera of every photographer present at Pratoni was turned to Zara Phillips, who despite being the defending individual champion, does not feel under pressure. "I have lots of team support. Rome is one of the most beautiful places in the world and it is very exciting being here."

Where the teams are concerned, Germany is in the lead (team score 102.3: Ingrid Klimke /FRH Butts Abraxxas (31.50); Frank Ostholt / Air Jordan 2 (33.10); Hinrich Romeike / Marius Voigt Logistik (37.70); Peter Thomsen / The Gost of Hamish (47.50 - drop score).

They are followed by Great Britain (team score 108.6: Zara Phillips / Toytown (29.8); Mary King / Call Again Cavalier (36.5); Daisy Dick / Spring Along (42.3); Oliver Townend / Flint Curtis (44.2 - drop score).

France is in third place (team score 121.9: Nicolas Touzaint / Galan de Sauvagère (29.8); Arnaud Boiteau / Expo du Moulin (43.5); Eric Vigeanel / Coronado Prior (49); Didier Hennin / Ismène du Temple (51.3 - drop score).

British team member Mary King, who scored 36.5, has happy memories of Pratoni, as she won individual bronze and team gold here in 1995 when she was five-months pregnant with her first child. Mary has been a member of the British team since 1991, winning three European team golds, world gold in 1994 and Olympic silver in 2004. She was a member of the silver medal team at the FEI World Equestrian Games last year on Call Again Cavalier who is owned by Janette Chinn & Sue and Eddie Davies. Unusually, they own two horses here, as they also own Irish team member Austin O' Connor's ride Hobby du Mee, who also competed at the 2003 FEI European Championship by Jean Teulère.

"I thought Call Again Cavalier would be nervous of the crowds - and when he gets nervous he retreats into himself - but this is one of the best tests I have done with him. He was very correct," she said.

But nothing is cast in stone and much will depend on tomorrow's Cross Country.

All the riders, regardless of placing and nationality, are equally impressed by the hilly terrain and the bold design of Giuseppe Della Chiesa. The early fences are mostly single which can lull horse and rider into a false sense of security, so that the three- and four-element combinations at fence nine (the flower beds) and 11 (rifle range) come as a real shock.

Despite the fact that there has not been any rain since April, the going according to Zara Phillips "rides better than it looks." The volcanic soil of Pratoni has consistently been worked upon with machines to help it retain its suppleness despite the draught. The 28-fence, 44-jumping effort track is 6020m in length and the optimum time of 10min34 will be difficult to make even for the best ones.

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