America’s Philip Dutton is the leader just after the halfway stage of the cross-country at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.

Philip put in one of only two round inside the optimum time so far on the 12-year-old New Zealand thoroughbred Woodburn to remain on his dressage score of 50.2.

“He was green, but I’m very excited about him,” said Philip. “He’s been in England since the other horses left for Hong Kong and David Green has been taking him up Alan King’s gallops, so I knew he was fit. I was fortunate to be able to set out strongly from the beginning.”

Listen to Philip’s interview

Philip is just 0.8 of a penalty in front of William Fox-Pitt, who added 2.8 time-penalties to his dressage score with Ballincoola.

This was William’s last ride on this horse — who is looking for his sixth Burghley completion in a row — as he will now go to joint-owners the Paynes’ son Fergus as a young rider horse.

“I did have a sad moment when I finished,” said William. “He’s a super horse to ride and such an expert now.”

The wet ground is taking its toll, with many horses finishing looking tired, and riders predicting it will be even tougher for the later starters.

“I had to work every stride. The recent rain means it’s not tacky, but every bit is deep,” said William, who paid tribute to the turf quality at Burghley and the preparation work which has meant the going is still rideable.

Jumping problems have put paid to the hopes of several of the dressage protagonists. Overnight leader Ruth Edge pulled up Mr Dumbledore after a run-out at the Land Rover bonnet, a skinny angled hedge off a bounce distance from a ditch (fence 7).

Andrew Hoy (sixth after dressage with Moon Fleet), and Oliver Townend (eighth with Flint Curtis) both retired after collecting 20 jumping penalties at the rail out of Capability’s Cutting (fence 22).

Pathfinder Rosie Thomas (Barry’s Best) is the only rider apart from Philip to have gone inside the time so far, and she earned praise from William Fox-Pitt, who said: “Rosie looked like a legend — watching her was the best thing ever. She made it look like a pre-novice.”

RESULTS AT 1.55pm ON SATURDAY

1. Woodburn (Philip Dutton, USA) 50.2
2. Ballincoola (William Fox-Pitt, GB) 51
3. Apache Sauce (Mary King, GB) 56.7
4. Fairfax (Rodolphe Scherer, FRA) 58.2
5. Comanche (James Robinson, GB) 58.6
6. Lead The Way (Clea Phillipps, GB) 61.6

Keep logging onto www.horseandhound.co.uk/burghley08 for updates, blogs and competitor diaries 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.