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Townend takes the lead ahead of Fox-Pitt after first day of dressage at Burghley
Stamford, UK
Photo: Anthony Trollope/StockImageServices.com

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Oliver Townend (GBR) and Flint Curtis
Ollie Townend claimed pole position after the first day of dressage at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials in Lincolnshire this afternoon while fellow-Briton William Fox-Pitt, who currently heads up the 2008 HSBC FEI Classics leaderboard, slottted into second place.

Burghley presents the penultimate leg of the the HSBC series which links the five 4-Star events at Kentucky, Badminton, Luhmuehlen, Burghley and Pau, and after the first three legs Fox-Pitt has a 10-point lead over America's Philip Dutton and Frenchman Nicolas Touzaint who share second spot on the series table.

Fox-Pitt was disappointed with his test with Ballincoola today however. "He was a bit 'middle-of-the-road'" said the defending champion who last year held the trophy aloft following a superb performance with Parkmore Ed. He is aiming for a record-equalling fifth Burghley victory this time around, but he said Ballincoola "chucked away a lot of marks today, which was very frustrating", and all-the-more-so because his partnership with the 14 year old Irish-bred gelding is coming to an end as the horse will return to joint-owner Michael Payne for competition at Young Rider level after this weekend.

Townend, on the other hand, was more than pleased with the test he performed with Flint Curtis. "It was his best ever" said the 25 year old who was a member of last year's European silver medal-winning British side. "My horse is only 12 years old and he has already had a great career. Last year he won the Scottish Open Championship at Thirlestane and the World Cup Qualifiier at Burnham Market and this year he won the CIC-W at Chatsworth. He was third in Badminton in 2006 and second in Punchestown in 2007 so he has a lot of experience for his age" the rider added.

Townend, who lives in Market Harborough in Leicestershire, was disappointed when not making the original selection for the British Olympic team and so decided to take his name off the reserve list for Hong Kong this summer and aim for Burghley instead. He's feeling pretty good about that decision now. "Today my horse was very relaxed and very rideable and that gave us the advantage" he pointed out. His score of 45.4 leaves him almost three points ahead of Fox-Pitt with 48.2, but Australia's Paul Tapner is only fractionally further adrift in third after earning a mark of 48.5.


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