“My favourite thing about Horse & Hound,” said Andrew Nicholson in a radio interview at Burghley Horse Trials this week, “is when I’m on the front cover.”

He had that honour for the Burghley Horse Trials preview issue before this competition — and he has every chance of doing it again next Thursday as he goes into the final phase with the narrowest of leads.

No one handles pressure better than Andrew. And he’s a fabulously talented show jumper. Yesterday he looked positively languid as I watched him warm up his old campaigner Lord Killinghurst before tackling this formidable cross-country course. The horse is in the autumn of his career but has never looked in better condition than he has this season.

Andrew’s former team-mate Blyth Tait was there as he popped the horse over the practice fences. “Have fun!” was Blyth’s parting shot — and it really looked as if he did.

Clear rounds inside the time proved extremely rare yesterday — but from the show jumping rounds completed so far, it seems that clear rounds over colour poles will also be at a premium.

Burghley has seen more than its share of tragedy over recent years and it was marvellous to see yesterday’s cross-country completed without serious incident, in perfect conditions. The showground has a lively, positive feel to it. Nothing looks trampled or tired. There’s no sense of a competition coming to its close; only of a competition coming to its peak.

Log back on later for a final report from Burghley and don’t forget to buy Horse & Hound next Thursday (6th September) for a full report with colour pictures.