Great Britain leapfrogged over Germany to take the lead after cross-country at the European Eventing Championships in Pratoni del Vivaro, Italy.

Second after dressage, the Brits put up a typically strong cross-country performance. Three British team members — Zara Phillips, Mary King and Daisy Dick — jumping fast clears to shoot them 64 points ahead of Germany. This means they have a strong chance of retaining team gold for the seventh successive time.

Zara Phillips also has a chance of keeping her European title. She is currently lying second individually on a score of 32.6, just behind France’s Nicolas Touzaint. Nicolas was the only rider to go inside the time across country and stays on his 29.4 dressage mark. Bettina Hoy, first after dressage for Germany, rode a great round on Ringwood Cockatoo, but 11.2 time-faults have dropped them to third.

And two other British riders must think they have a chance of a medal — Mary King is fourth on Call Again Cavalier and Daisy Dick is fifth on Spring Along.

Daisy was first to go for the Brits, and was sent the long route at fence nine, three huge, narrow flower boxes. But she was one of very few riders to go straight at Pratoni’s famous “slide” at fence 11 — a log drop down a steep slope to two impossibly skinny “bullseye” targets — which Ingrid Klimke, fourth for Germany after dressage, had fallen foul of.

Daisy only got 2.8 time-faults, so all five other British riders took the long route at fence nine. Unfortunately Oli Townend slipped off the second “bullseye” at fence 11 on Flint Curtis, and picked up 20pen.

With this information on board, Zara Phillips took both long routes, and received 2.8 time-faults. It was a bold, galloping round from the 26-year-old, who said: “It was hard work guiding him up and down all the hills and drops here, and he was very keen early on. But he was good everywhere.”

Nicolas, last to go on Galan De Sauvagere, was brave enough to risk the straight route at fence nine, and it paid off. It was a beautiful round, and the pair deserve to be in the lead.

“He gets better and better,” said Nicolas. “We had a very smooth round.”

And Mary King’s round on Call Again Cavalier was superb, with just one sticky moment at the first water, where the bay gelding jumped in very big and landed flat-footed in the water.

“My main worry was stamina, but he was zooming along,” said Mary. “I did have a great advantage going so late in the day, but it was an awfully long time to feel sick!”

Britain’s two individuals, Georgie Davies and Rodney Powell, both picked up stops, but finished, unlike 20 of the 63 starters. High-profile casualties included Germany’s fourth-placed Frank Ostholt and Air Jordan 2, who retired after an uncharacteristic stop, and Karin Donckers, sixth after dressage for Belgium, who was technically eliminated for jumping the wrong side of a flag towards the end of the course.

France is in third in the team competition, ahead of Italy, whose best placed rider is Vittoria Panizzon, ninth on Rock Model.

Results after cross-country

1. Nicolas Touzaint (Galan De Sauvagere, FRA) 29.4
2. Zara Phillips (Toytown, GB) 32.6
3. Bettina Hoy (Ringwood Cockatoo, GER) 38.3
4. Mary King (Call Again Cavalier, GB) 41.3
5. Daisy Dick (Spring Along, GB) 45.1
6. Jean Teulere (Espoir De La Mare, FRA) 45.7
7. Hinrich Romeike (Marius Voigt-Logistik, GER) 46.9
8. Cedric Lyard (Jolly Hope De Treille, FRA) 51.1
9. Vittoria Panizzon (Rock Model, ITA) 52.3
10. Ingrid Klimke (FRH Butts Abraxxas, GER) 60.7

Team results after cross-country

1. Great Britain 119
2. Germany 183.1
3. France 208.9
4. Italy 215.7
5. Belgium 250.2
6. Denmark 250.9

Log on tomorrow for H&H’s final report and check out next Thursday’s magazine for a full report including fantastic photographs