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Germany Take Early Lead At Fontainebleau
Fontainebleau, France
Photo: Kit Houghton

The German squad has begun the HSBC FEI European Eventing Championships at Fontainebleau (FRA) as they mean to go on, with 3 riders in the top 4 and a healthy 14-point lead over defending champions Great Britain at this very early stage of proceedings after the first day of Dressage.

France is in bronze position, thanks to an excellent performance from their second team rider, Eric Vigeanel on the 19-year-old Coronado Prior, who is lying indivually 6th. "My horse is like a good wine - he improves with age," joked Vigeanel.

And Belgium is lying 4th, with the promise of a good test to come tomorrow from anchorwoman Karin Donckers (BEL) on the graceful Gazelle de la Brasserie.
Frank Ostholt (GER) aboard Air Jordan 2
In the current individual standings, Frank Ostholt (GER), second to go for his team on the 14-year-old Hannoverian gelding Air Jordan, has a minute 0.4 lead over individual rider Dirk Schrade (GER) on Gadget de la Cere, and team rookie Michael Jung (GER), their trailblazer, is in equal 4th place on his 4* winner La Biosthetique Sam, also the HSBC FEI World Cup Eventing Champion.

"We are World and Olympic Champions but somehow the European title has evaded us over the last few years," said Ostholt, noting that Germany's last European team gold medal was, astonishingly, as far back as Kiev (USSR) in 1973. "We hope to put that right this weekend!"

William Fox-Pitt (GBR), second to go for Great Britain, interrupted German domination with a beautiful test on the long-legged French bred chestnut Idalgo, who was produced by Nicolas Touzaint.

And British individual Lucy Wiegersma lies in equal 4th place on Woodfalls Inigo Jones, a rising star who was 5th at the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event in April.

"He was very suspicious of the arena and seemed to think there was a ghost hiding behind every flowerpot," said Wiegersma. "It was a big step up for him and I'm thrilled, because I think there is a lot more to come."

Germany should consolidate their lead tomorrow, when Ingrid Klimke (GER) and Andreas Dibowski (GER) perform their tests, and Britain has Olympic bronze medallist Kristina Cook (GBR) and dual 4* winner Oliver Townend (GBR) to come, while great excitement will surround the team debut of Italian rider Roberto Rotatori following his brilliant 4th place at on his 4* debut at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (GBR) in May.

However, all riders acknowledge that Pierre Michelet's (FRA) Cross-Country course could completely change the order. "It is a real championship course," said Frank Ostholt. "There's a lot to jump, it's very technical and you need to remain very focussed."

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