Andrew Hoy is back with a vengeance after his Olympic disappointment (he was one of the surprise victims of a narrow urn on the cross-country), and has established himself at the top of the leaderboard at Burghley with his Olympic reserve horse, Moon Fleet.

His mount seemed more on edge than usual this morning, but Hoy exerted his usual professionalism to channel the horse’s nervous energy into a very neat dressage test, which propelled him into the lead at this early stage.

Meanwhile, Polly Stockton is best of the Brits, just 0.8 of a penalty behind Andrew Hoy. She and Tangleman produced a flamboyant test, with some beautiful extensions.

There was a characteristically good test from Terry Boon with Foreign Exchange. This is the combination’s first four-star event, but with a Bramham win under their belt already this season, their confidence is clearly adding to their brilliant form.

Not everything went to plan for some riders this morning, most notably Jeanette Brakewell and Highland Spirit, who was showing just a little bit too much spirit, and a misunderstanding about a flying change brought their mark down. Sarah Cutteridge was also unable to focus all of Erbium’s energies, and they stand in 18th place after a mediocre test.

A champion’s perspective

Leslie Law was on hand this morning to give his own, gold medallist’s perspective of the cross-country course this year.

“This is a very different test to the course in Athens, for a start it is quite a bit longer,” explains Law. “It is a meaty track and a true four star course, with a good mix of spread and upright fences.”

Athens was the first time that Law had ridden the shorter format, and it is hardly surprising that he was very positive about how it worked.

“The course in Athens had to be a little bit friendly. It was a beautiful course, although it could have been a little bit more demanding.”

He wasn’t complaining however. “Athens worked very well. Bring on the new format!”, said the Worcestershire rider with a cheeky grin.

Looking ahead to Saturday, Law is confident that the course will suit his ride, Shear H2O very well. “The only thing is that he’d like a bit of a top to the ground, so the more it dries out in the next bit the better.”

And dry out it should, with temperatures of 25+ forecast for the next few days, but with record rain fall throughout August, the ground crew have had a serious challenge on their hands to prepare the ground.

“We have been working hard. Even in the best circumstances, we are basically creating a temporary village on a Greenfield site,” explains committee chairman Malcolm Wallace.

“There are one or two bits of work we have had to do to the course itself, such as slightly realigning fence two in order to avoid the wetter ground.”

Results after Thursday morning’s dressage

1. Moon Fleet (Andrew Hoy, AUS) 44.4;
2. Tangle Man (Polly Stockton) 44.8;
3. Foreign Exchange (Terry Boon) 46.6;
4. Enchanted (Sammi McLeod AUS) 47.0;
5. Mallard’s Treat (Matthew Wright) 49.0;
=6. Onyx (Victoria Carlerback SWE) 54.2;
=6. Call Again Cavalier (Caroline Pratt) 54.2.