Karen O’Connor and Prince Panache came one step closer to clinching the world’s richest eventing prize when comfortably retaining their lead at the MBNA Foxhall Cup near Atlanta, Georgia,today (Saturday).

The duo sailed round the course in the vintage style typical of their nine-year partnership and finished with five time-penalties – enough to give them a show jump in hand following the withdrawal of both of dressage leader Holly Hepp’s two rides in the D box.

Hard on her heels is none other than Karen’s husband David with Tigger Too in third, a youngster in his first big event since sustaining an injury at Thirlestane Castle nine months ago, while inrunner-up slot is Kim Vinoski on Winsome Adante, a horse bought from Britain as a novice and which may well come to Burghley this autumn.

Eddy Stibbe had two stops on his first ride, Eton, but went well on Prime Contender to move up theorder to fifth behind the USA’s Tiffany Loudon, one of the fastest of the day.

Only one show jump separates second to sixth so there is everything to go for in tomorrow’s show jumping phase.

The other British “foot and mouth refugee,” Nigel Taylor, had an irritating run-out early on with Gamber’s Lad, although was never really in contention after being anchored by a 64 dressage score.

A crowd of Windsor size turned out, 2.5 times larger than last year’s but still a slight disappointment to organiser Jim Richards who aims to make Foxhall a Burghley-Badminton equivalent “very quickly.”

His aggressive marketing campaign included 22 30-second TV advertising slot, so obviously it will take a little more than a $210,000 dollar prize-fund to attract a public, but he has plenty of ideas and the time to enact them, having signed a 25-contract to run this fixture.

However, the spectators had a superb day out in unseasonable highs of 83 degrees for it¨s possible tosee virtually everything from the grandstand at this bespoke course.

Three water features flank the main arena, which included the world’s most costly fence – a $325,000 Bentley car, which emerged with only a scuff, despite the shiny blue bonnet being jumped by mistake by one contender, Widge Mudge.

Last year 22 riders went clear within the time – too many in the view of course-builder Mark Philliips, who cranked it up a notch on time and reduced the double clears to seven.

Therewere a few mishaps, including a dunking at the main water for overnight equal third Darren Chiacchia on the ex-Ingrid Klimke ride Windfall, while Olympic team bronze medallist Linden Wiseman, on the same mark, called it a day after Buzz Lightyear took violent exception to the “in” of a coffin at six.

Other horses with a history from over this side of the water that went well were the cat-like Hannigan, former ride of Susan Shortt and then Abigal Lufkin, who went superbly for Philip Dutton.

Less fortunate, Cathy Wieschhoff believes she has more homework to do after three run-outs mostly in water with the ex-Pippa Funnell winner, Rainbow Magic.

A bonus of $100,00 was up for grabs to anyone who could win last month’s Beaulieu Classic and this, but did not eventuate as in the end, contender Philip Dutton elected not to run the appropriate horse at Foxhall.

For more information on Foxhall visit: www.foxhallcup.com