Sunday, August 10, 2008

Australia lead in dressage

....Australia's Clayton Fredericks rides Ben Along Time during the equestrian eventing dressage competition at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong August 9, 2008.

....Australia's Lucinda Fredericks rides Headley Britannia during the equestrian eventing dressage competition at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong August 9, 2008.
REUTERS/Caren Firouz

Sat Aug 9, 2008 12:44pm EDT

By Sophie Taylor

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Strong performances by husband and wife Clayton and Lucinda Fredericks in the dressage on Saturday put Australia on top in the Olympic equestrian three-day event.

However, the French team was dealt a blow with a sudden withdrawal from the Beijing Games.

By the end of the second session, the Australian eventing team had amassed a total of 102.80 penalty points, followed by the U.S. team with a total of 121.50 penalties. Germany's team came in third place with 135.30 points.

Dressage, the first phase of eventing, will be followed by cross-country and show jumping next week.

"I thought it was very tough. My horse is 100 percent fit and it is suitable for the course. The test is that I don't stuff it up and take a wrong line," Lucinda Fredericks told reporters, referring to the cross-country course.

Germany's Heinrich Romeike told reporters: "He did everything I asked. He was agile, wide awake, fully switched on. I noticed his eagerness."

Some horses spooked slightly at members of the audience who used pieces of paper to fan themselves in the hot weather.

"Of course horses notice these things. They are flight animals by nature and had to look out for wolves," German teammate Frank Ostholt said.

France's Nicolas Touzaint announced his withdrawal from the Olympics after his horse, Galan de Sauvagere, was injured in a suspected accident in his stable in Hong Kong.

"The groom heard a bang in the stables during a thunderstorm yesterday morning. We didn't think it was serious, but when we were warming the horse up today we saw he was not well. He is injured on the hind leg," team leader Thierry Touzaint said at a news conference late on Saturday.

New Zealand's eventing team, which welcomed two-time Olympic gold medalist Mark Todd after his eight-year retirement, slipped to sixth place.

Three members out of each country's eventing team rode in the dressage on Saturday, and will be followed by the third and last session on Sunday.