Australia holds the upper hand in the CCI**** at Pau after dressage, with Clayton Fredericks (pictured right) and Christopher Burton sharing the lead on 43.7 penalties.

Clayton’s ride Bendigo, who belongs to his long-term supporters Edwin and Peta McAuley, is at his first four-star, but won Saumur CCI*** earlier this year. Today the 12-year-old’s trotwork was particularly impressive.

“He’s not absolutely reliable in that he’s a show off and when he comes into the arena he knows he’s on show, which can work against him, but today his attitude was really good and it’s nice to be able to go in and ride positively, without thinking the horse is about to explode,” said Clayton.

Just two horses later Christopher piloted Jean and Jade Finlay’s Holstein Park Leilani (left) to equal Clayton’s score. The 15-year-old mare was Christopher’s ride at last year’s World Equestrian Games, but disappointed at Burghley.

“I let her down in the dressage and then we had a fall at the Cottesmore Leap, but now I get to come to Pau and enjoy the French hospitality and do the test I know she can do,” said Christopher, who won Adelaide CCI**** in 2008 on Newsprint, the pathfinder here.

The focus coming into this event was on Mary King, who will secure the 2011 HSBC FEI Classics first prize this weekend – unless William Fox-Pitt wins and she finishes lower than eighth.

At present, that looks possible. Mary’s first ride Apache Sauce led last night, but now lies 11th. All eyes were on Imperial Cavalier this afternoon and though Mary looked to have the lid on his exuberance, some tension came through and he could only score 51 for 18th.

Meanwhile William lies third on Oslo, who performed well apart from a blip in the final canter serpentine.

“He’s got presence and he loves the tension,” said William. “That mistake was cheeky, but he has his own opinions and that’s part of the game – it’s hopefully what makes him an exceptional horse.”

William also has Lionheart, another nine-year-old, handily placed in ninth, but a lot can happen on Pierre Michelet’s cross-country track tomorrow and Mary’s horses do have more experience at the level than William’s two four-star debutants. With even higher temperatures predicted for tomorrow than today’s 25 °C, the weather may also play a part.

Also for Britain, Lucy Wiegersma (Simon Porloe) sits in fifth and Ruth Edge (Nick Of Thyme) lies equal sixth with New Zealand’s Andrew Nicholson (Mr Cruise Control).

Astier Nicolas (Jhakti Du Janlie) is best of the home side in fourth, with 2007 Pau winners Nicolas Touzaint and Hildago De L’Ile eighth. Surprisingly, the best German is only 10th – this is Frank Ostholt with his 2008 Olympic team gold medallist Mr Medicott.

With 69 starters, Pau boasts its largest ever four-star field this year.

Pau website with full results and start lists

Log back on for an update after cross-country tomorrow and don’t forget to buy H&H next week (20 October issue) for a full report from Pau.

RESULTS AFTER DRESSAGE

1eq. Clayton Fredericks on Bendigo, AUS 43.7
1eq. Christopher Burton on Holstein Park Leilani, AUS 43.7
3. William Fox-Pitt on Oslo, GB 44.2
4. Astier Nicolas on Jhakti Du Janlie, FRA 45
5. Lucy Wiegersma on Simon Porloe, GB 45.5
6eq. Ruth Edge on Nick Of Thyme, GB 46.2
6eq. Andrew Nicholson on Mr Cruise Control, NZL 46.2
8. Nicolas Touzaint on Hildago De L’Ile, FRA 46.3
9. William Fox-Pitt on Lionheart, GB 46.7
10. Frank Ostholt on Mr Medicott, GER 47.3