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HONG KONG - There will be no golden conclusion to Mark Todd's comeback to elite level equestrian, with the two-time Olympic champion today conceding an individual eventing medal was beyond him at his sixth Games.

Ranked 30th after the dressage component, Todd and Gandalf produced another solid performance when leading off the cross country endurance test at Beas River today.

But barring a series of catastrophes for others it will not be sufficient to see him make the podium after Wednesday's (NZT) final showjumping phase.

The pair negotiated the 29 fences scattered along the 4.56km layout without drama but well over the prescribed optimum time of eight minutes.

They crossed in 9min 06.72sec, to have 27.2 time penalties added to the 49.4 they carried over from the dressage component.

Todd's dressage score was among two discards, enabling the five-member New Zealand team to start the endurance phase in sixth position, behind runaway leaders Australia, Germany, the United States, Great Britain and Italy.

New Zealand, who still have Andrew Nicholson, Joe Meyer, Heelan Tompkins and Caroline Powell to ride, will be hoping Todd's score will again not figure in the team total.

Todd, the Olympic champion at Los Angeles in 1984 and at Seoul four years later, was philosophical.

"My chances of an individual medal were slim so the best I could do was be a strong backup for the rest of the team," he said.

To that end he deliberately took the more time consuming route at the penultimate fence, the Pagodas.

Had Gandalf ran out when attempting the direct line another 20 penalties would have been added.

"The most important thing was to have a clear round," Todd said.

"If I had a silly run out there at the second last I'd have kicked myself."

Todd, who was also first to compete in the dressage, said being first away was a slight disadvantage.

"You just don't know how the horse is going to finish. We've all been warned about the heat and the effect it has on them.

"The last thing I wanted to do was go out too fast early and have a very tired horse at the end.

"I went out as quick as I felt comfortable and the horse felt comfortable all the way around.

"On reflection I maybe could have gone out a little bit quicker but I'm happy."

Todd, 52, thought completing the course in 8min 30sec was more realistic, but anything faster flirted with danger.

The individual and team standings will be confirmed about 4pm (NZT).

- NZPA