Lucinda Fredericks has taken over the lead at the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event, USA, with a thrilling round on a super-fit Headley Britannia, to finish inside the optimum time, the first time she has achieved this at four-star level.

Bettina Hoy is now second, having clocked 9.6 time penalties in a courageous and accurate round on the 18-year-old Ringwood Cockatoo amid temperatures of 85 degrees, albeit with a cooling breeze.

Both riders produced vintage performances of what do across country when it doesn’t all go according to plan. Lucinda lost her knitting when “Brit” launched into the Head of the Lake and had to think quickly with an alternative route. Bettina reacted equally quickly when Cockatoo took off alarmingly far out at the first of two big corners at fence 22.

“I had an exhilarating ride,” said Lucinda, “but it took me a while to get into it, as I only ride one horse at this level. But after the water, I think I started to ride better. She is feisty, but she is also careful, and you have to place her. It was easier at the big fences near the end of the course.”

Bettina was emotional after her ride. “I think the heat may have got to him, and I didn’t want to go any faster than felt right, and I had to help him. He owes me nothing and every competition is a bonus.”

Lucinda now has a fence in hand over Bettina in the final jumping phase, but the next riders are closely bunched together.

Buck Davidson punched the air as he finished clear on My Boy Bobby and retained his third place with just 1.2 time penalties. “I knew his not being a Thoroughbred would be an issue, and he did run out of gas, but he dug deep and I’m so proud of him. Show jumping is his best phase, so now I’ve done my job, I hope he does his.”

Tim Lips retained his fourth place, recovering from a couple of hesitant moments with aplomb. Nicolas Touzaint, inside time on Hildago de l’Ile, rose from seventh to fifth.

Lucy Wiegersma is best of the British in sixth after an impressively assured performance on Woodfalls Inigo Jones, a horse she has had since a foal. “He is always fabulous across country,” she said. “The big surprise is how well he went in the dressage. He has a tendency to get starstruck and he’s never seen anything like this.”

Oli Townend was a class act on Carousel Quest, finishing on a clean sheet and moving up one place to seventh. William Fox-Pitt is eighth after giving Seacookie a masterful ride.

William had a run-out with Navigator at a narrow brush fence at the Normandy Bank at 25, but the horse had lost a shoe at fence 9 and William put this down to green-ness. “He is was as good as I hoped.”

Nicola Wilson has risen 11 places to 15th after a brilliant round on Opposition Buzz. “Everyone says what a great cross-country horse he is, so I was a little nervous about getting it right. But he was super; he gave me a wonderful ride and was much calmer at the start. He can sometimes run through the bridle at the start of the course, but I had stuck to riding him over only very small practice fences and, as a result, he was much nicer.”

Mike Etherington-Smith’s course, with its flowing, forward distances, rode as well as expected and there were 30 clear rounds from the 46 horses who started across country; 38 finished.

The day’s only casualty was the sad death of Mike Winter’s horse Kingpin, which collapsed and died on landing at fence 10. The horse was found to have bled internally. Mike was taken to hospital, but discharged, and he withdrew his second ride.

Don’t miss H&H’s full report from Kentucky in next week’s magazine