Oliver Townend leads the dressage at lunchtime on Thursday at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.

His ride Flint Curtis put in one of his best performances, with polished trotwork scoring 7s and 8s, although the marks dropped down for the flying changes towards the end of the test.

“He went to Badminton a year too early really when he was third in 2006 — it worked at the time, but it’s taken him a long time to recover from it,” said Oliver (pictured). “He was quiet and felt rideable today, now it’s just a case of me trusting him to be like that.”

Listen to Oliver’s interview

Oliver is 2.8 penalties ahead of William Fox-Pitt and the 2005 winner Ballincoola.

“Overall I’m pleased with him, although it wasn’t his best test,” said William. “He can be quite a tense horse and it’s his sixth time here which isn’t always a good thing — the horses know what it’s all about and come into the arena knowing it’s going to be exciting.”

Ballincoola’s high marks were marred by low scores in the halt and rein-back, including a 1 from one judge.

“Halting facing towards the exit is always a risky movement for him — I felt I had established the halt, but they obviously felt it wasn’t long enough,” commented William.

Listen to William’s interview

Mary King completes the British trio at the top of the leader board after breaking the 50 barrier for the first time at this level with the white-faced chestnut Apache Sauce.

RESULTS AT THURSDAY LUNCHTIME

1. Flint Curtis (Oliver Townend, GB) 45.4
2. Ballincoola (William Fox-Pitt, GB) 48.2
3. Apache Sauce (Mary King, GB) 49.1
4. Comanche (James Robinson, GB) 49.8
5. SS Jett (Karin Donckers, BEL) 50
6. Fairfax (Rodolphe Scherer, FRA) 53

Keep logging onto www.horseandhound.co.uk/burghley08 for updates, blogs and video from Burghley.

Don’t forget to buy Horse & Hound next Thursday (11 September) for a 12-page special report, colour photographs and William Fox-Pitt’s comment.