Dressage leader William Fox-Pitt has been left with a ludicrous seven-fence advantage for tomorrow’s final show jumping phase after a dramatic cross-country day at the Failte Ireland Punchestown CCI***. William’s 14.8 time penalties on the easy-striding Idalgo was easily the fastest time of the class in the sticky, muddy conditions.

Only half the field completed and Sacha Pemble, who recently switched from British to Irish nationality, has moved up from 18th after dressage, is in second place, 31pen in arrears, on I’ve Been Dun; they jumped one of only seven clear rounds and clocked the second fastest time, 20.8.

Britain’s Tor Brewer, third on Highleadon, who jumped like a stag, and Vicky Brake, fourth on Looks Like Fun, have 28.8 time penalties apiece.

Pippa Funnell is eighth on Chamrock despite a run-out but retired Ensign after a run-out at the fourth fence. This was the most influential obstacle, a double of angled palisades at the foot of a monstrous steep slope, but problems were spread around the course.

William Fox-Pitt admitted to being “seriously worried” before his round and he was on the end of the buckle — though in control — down the slope at fence four. “It was a strong course for any horse or rider tackling their first three-star,” he said. “But what an extraordinary day — I just wish I hadn’t gone so fast. I could have saved the horse a bit more.”

Matthew Wright had an eventful day, retiring Cermont after a fall at a bounce in the three-star, but leads the two-star CCI on Singalong. He is also 11th on Another Cavalier, the trailblazer, but retired Grove Joucas, second after dressage, after the horse stopped in the middle of a bounce and ejected him.

However, just one fence covers the top six, and he has Bettina Hoy (Witch Doctor), Mary King (KIngs Fancy), Polly Stockton (Westwood Joker) and Pippa Funnell (Matter of Opinion) breathing down his neck. Elizabeth Power is best of the Irish in sixth on Kilpatrick River.

In the young rider section, the two riders who were bottom after dressage now lead after both the first and second after the first phase retired. Jennifer Ronan leads on Sportsfield Wot the Heck from Sara Glynn on Killossery Ringwood.