Badminton winner Oliver Townend (pictured) is in line to add the Burghley Horse Trials title to his tally after taking the lead at the Land Rover-sponsored event this afternoon.
Oliver performed a mistake-free test on Carousel Quest in the last batch of dressage at the end of the day.
“I was worried about the changes with the wind — I knew he was capable of doing a good test but I didn’t expect to break the 40 barrier,” said Oliver, who scored 39.8. “But he felt as good as he’s ever felt.”
The now 14-year-old Carousel Quest was fourth here in 2006 with Cressida Clague Reading — who now focuses on pure show jumping — and Oliver explained tonight that he and owner Andrew Cawthray acquired him for a reasonable price last year because he has had soundness issues.
“Hopefully we’ve worked through those now that he’s stronger,” said Oliver.
Listen to interview with Oliver Townend
No one challenged yesterday’s top three before lunch — Matt Ryan was best of the morning’s riders to score 48.2 for ninth overnight — but there were plenty of strong combinations this afternoon.
Andrew Nicholson now lies second on Nereo, 5.2pen behind Oliver. Nine-year-old Nereo won Bramham this year and this is his first four-star.
“I like him a lot — and I’ll like him a lot more if he wins this,” joked Andrew tonight, before comparing the horse to his full-brother Armada, also competing here: “Armada is pretty wild in the dressage and very flamboyant jumping, while Nereo is quieter in the dressage and jumping, but hopefully they’ll both do a good job tomorrow.”
Listen to interview with Andrew Nicholson
Fellow New Zealander Caroline Powell is third on the popular grey Lenamore.
She said: “He’s grown-up a lot in the last couple of years and become more consistent. At home he could win any dressage competition, but that changes when you put him in the atmosphere and different conditions. Apart from the rein-back [when the horse showed tension and lost marks], he did the test he’s been doing at home today so I’m pleased with him.”
Last night’s leader Phillip Dutton is now fourth on Truluck.
Andrew Nicholson said tonight that the shortening of the cross-country course here will make it a tougher test: “The part that’s been taken out was the smoothest bit and where I used to give the horses a breather.
“Now you will feel you are going up and down and round corners for the whole 10 and a half minutes, and the jumps will come up quickly. The horses may struggle to keep up their energy levels and they’ve got to be switched on from start to finish.”
The first horse on course will be Black Drum, ridden by Annabel Wigley, at 11am.
RESULTS AFTER DRESSAGE
1. Oliver Townend on Carousel Quest (GB) 39.8
2. Andrew Nicholson Nereo (NZL) 45
3. Caroline Powell on Lenamore (NZL) 45
4. Phillip Dutton on Truluck (USA) 45.3
5. J-P Sheffield on Crown Farm Consort (GB) 46.5
6. Kai Ruder on Leprince Des Bois (GER) 46.7
Follow the competition live tomorrow with H&H online’s up-to-the-minute written commentary, starting again tomorrow at 10.45am. Visit www.horseandhound.co.uk/burghleylive to register for an email reminder.
Keep up with all H&H’s online Burghley coverage at www.horseandhound.co.uk/burghley2009 and don’t forget to buy H&H next week (10 September) for our 10-page Burghley special report.