New Zealand’s Caroline Powell leads after the cross-country at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials on Lenamore.

After one of 11 rounds inside the time, Caroline has the big title which has always eluded the MacKinnons’ popular bouncing grey within her grasp — but Oliver Townend is less than a penalty behind her after finishing just 1sec over the cross-country time with last year’s winner Carousel Quest.

“He is 17, but he keeps feeling younger and younger — he’s a special horse,” said Caroline, who was held briefly on course while a frangible pin was replaced at the Burghley Station after Sarah Wardell’s Killeenduff broke it. “It’s quite difficult to get going again [after a hold], but he’s such an experienced horse and I’ve been held a few times, so I know what to do. It didn’t affect us that much.”

Oliver declared that finishing with 0.4 of a time-penalty was ideal.

“It means I’ve taken as little as possible out of him, but I’m as close to the leader as possible,” he said. “I’ve taken less out of him than if I was 5 or 6sec under the time. If I sit on another horse as good as him in my time it’ll be very special because he outclasses anything I’ve ever ridden.”

William Fox-Pitt lies third on Seacookie, with Mary King fourth (Apache Sauce) and fifth (Kings Temptress). Clayton Fredericks is sixth with Be My Guest II, while Francis Whittington is seventh, having ridden Sir Percival III at the cascade fence with great determination after his stop there last year.

Pippa Funnell successfully contested the 20pen she was given when Mirage D’Elle ran sideways along the top of the Leap Pit drop (fence 4a), moving her up from 44th to 19th.

Dressage leader Ruth Edge had a refusal with Two Thyme at the second hedge at the Land Rover Trout Hatchery, then retired at the Maltings.

Serious fall

There were a number of falls and holds this afternoon. The most serious was for 22-year-old Nicola Malcolm, who completed Burghley last year with McFly but had a fall this time at fence 19, the innocuous-looking Birch Hedge. The course was held for around an hour and she was air-lifted to Coventry Hospital and a statement released by the press office at 4.40pm said that she was “stable following a head injury”. McFly was not injured.

H&H first-timer diarist Georgie Strang fell with Master Monarch at the Rolex Combination (fence 15ab), but was not seriously injured.

But overall, riders praised the course and particularly the fact that the Land Rover Discovery Valley at fence 6, which caused numerous problems last year, had been made easier. This meant horses could take a straight line through it and get into the course earlier.

Course-designer Mark Phillips said that Nicola’s fall “hurt a lot” but that for the most part, the course produced a good picture.

Don’t forget to buy H&H next week (9 September issue) for a full 10-page report from Burghley, including comment from cross-country course-designer Mark Phillips.

Log back onto www.horseandhound.co.uk tomorrow for report on the final trot-up and after the showjumping.

RESULTS AFTER CROSS-COUNTRY

1.Caroline Powell on Lenamore (NZL) 38.7
2.Oliver Townend on Carousel Quest (GB) 39.6
3.William Fox-Pitt on Seacookie (GB) 41.9
4.Mary King on Apache Sauce (GB) 44.8
5.Mary King on Kings Temptress (GB) 45.3
6.Clayton Fredericks on Be My Guest II (AUS) 45.8

Full results