Oliver Townend’s attempt to add a third four-star three-day event title to his wins this season at Badminton and Burghley is well under way after he led the dressage at Pau CCI**** in the South of France.

Riding his Burghley victor Carousel Quest, Oliver scored 42.5 to top the 37-starter competition.

“He wasn’t as easy as he has been — he hates big screens and caught sight of it during his halt and froze, but he’s as well as he’s been and as fit as he’s been,” said Oliver.

Oliver is also in the lead as the HSBC Classics series, where riders accumulate points at Lexington, Badminton, Luhmuhlen, Burghley and Pau, draws to a close. The winner walks away with $150,000.

Germany’s Andreas Dibowski is just over a mark behind in the CCI**** in second on 43.8 with his European Championship partner Euroridings Butts Leon. The pair fell foul of fence 14 last month in Fontainebleau, and are looking to finish their season on a more successful note here.

Italian rider Susanna Bordone lies third on Blue Moss, another horse to have competed in Fontainebleau, with a mark of 45.8.

Andrew Nicholson is fourth on Rosemary Barlow’s attractive grey Avebury, for whom this is a first four-star. They collected 46.2 – a score which would have been someway higher if the nine-year-old’s canterwork had been as impressive and established as his trotwork.

Just 0.2pen behind Andrew is the German Dirk Schrade on King Artus with 46.8, while Britain’s Lucy Wiegersma (Granntevka Prince) and Susanna Bordone (Ava) share sixth place with 47.5.

“It’s been the plan to come to Pau all year, but I got slightly cold feet after Granntevka Prince won Blenheim last month,” Lucy said. “But he had a thorough MOT, and there was no physical reason not to come here.”

The riders concur that Pierre Michelet’s cross-country course is a little less twisty than last year, but still merits serious consideration.

“I like it, but it will take plenty of riding,” said Oliver Townend.

A possible bogey fence is a narrow house into the second water complex: “They never jump really well, and the line through the fence isn’t particularly nice,” said Lucy Wiegersma.

She also said that, while a heavy downpour yesterday had softened the firm going, the twisty, narrow track could be a little slippery.

Oliver is also third in the CIC** on Neo Du Breuil, behind Dutch rider Madeline Brugman on Katmandu 7 and France’s Jennifer Vuillemin on Halcion. British-based Kiwi rider Tim Price is fourth on Billy Malone.

Pau CCI**** results after dressage
1 Oliver Townend on Carousel Quest (GBR) 42.5
2 Andreas Dibowski on Euroridings Butts Leon (GER) 43.8
3 Susanna Bordone on Blue Moss (ITA) 45.8
4 Andrew Nicholson on Avebury (NZL) 46.2
5 Dirk Schrade on King Artus (GER) 46.8
=6 Lucy Wiegersma on Granntevka Prince (GBR) 47.5
=6 Susanna Bordone on Ava (ITA) 47.5
8 William Fox-Pitt on Macchiato (GBR) 47.7
9 Jan Byyny on Waterfront (USA) 48.5
10 Pascal Leroy on Minos De Petra (FRA) 49.7

Don’t miss H&H’s full report from Pau, on sale 29 October, ’09