British trio start strong

Three members of Great Britain's Equestrian eventing team made strong starts to the final major competition with their Olympic horses before London 2012.

Zara Phillips, Piggy French and William Fox-Pitt were all in action on day one of the Barbury International Horse Trials.

Their other two team-mates - five-time Olympian Mary King and double Olympic bronze medalist Tina Cook - face dressage tests on Friday before a weekend of showjumping and cross-country. The popular Wiltshire event has taken on added significance this year because of the Olympics.

Phillips (High Kingdom), French (DHI Topper W) and Fox-Pitt (Lionheart) are competing in section B of Barbury's CIC two-star section, with King (Imperial Cavalier) and Cook (Miners Frolic) among the CIC three-star field, where King also has her Olympic reserve horse Kings Temptress.

Barbury is a key run-out for Britain's Olympic combinations before Greenwich Park hosts the opening day of eventing action on July 28. And it was French who finished highest of the trio after all 51 dressage tests had been completed.

The Leicestershire-based rider, winner of last summer's Olympic Test event with Topper, lies second overnight on a score of 40.8 penalties. That left her 1.1 penalties ahead of Fox-Pitt, who was equal-third alongside Australia's Emma Dougall, with Phillips on 44.2 for fifth place, 8.9 penalties behind leader Kitty King.

It was another solid dressage effort from 2006 world champion Phillips, whose Olympic call-up was clinched through a podium finish at the Bramham International in Yorkshire almost three weeks ago.

French, one of the early morning starters, set an impressive standard, but her lead proved short-lived King took over top spot with Persimmon. Wiltshire rider King has high hopes for a horse she only began riding last year, but Persimmon crowned a successful debut season by landing the national six-year-old championship title at Osberton.

And that form continued on Thursday as a score of 35.3 relegated French to second spot, which was a position last year's Badminton runner-up also filled in sections C and D.

French and West Side are just 0.3 penalties behind section C leader Hannah Bate (Aspen Aspire), while her section D ride Kiltealy Brief trails America's Julian Stiller (Enjoy Me) by 3.2.