Piggy French and four-star debutant Flying Machine are lying second on 37.2 penalties going into cross-country at Luhmuhlen horse trials.
They were deposed from top spot by Frank Ostholt and Little Paint (35.3) at a fairly late stage in a long day of dressage.
They are also the only one of the nine British here to finish in the top 10, a position all the more creditable as this is the strongest field Luhmuhlen’s annual event has seen since upgrading to four-star level in 2005.
The leading German venue also hosts the European eventing championships in August; it is unrecognisable after a 9 million Euro redevelopment and so the competition is doubling as a familiarisation exercise for those in contention for a place on their respective national teams.
Flying Machine has been competed sparingly and tomorrow’s cross-country will be a significant learning curve.
“It is plenty tough enough for my horse I just am hoping he has a good trip – we have got to go and attack it,” said Piggy.
Some found the new-look environment buzzier than usual, though Little Paint was one that did manage to contain himself until after the final halt and consequent enthusiastic applause.
Ostholt had been confident after recent top-scoring tests in France and Poland.
The horse has had two years off as a result of a cist in his foreleg and Ostholt says that in hindsight it is the best thing that could have happened to him.
“Before, he was always somewhere between genius and madness but now he is simply mature, and with the same cross-country power as before.”
Niklaus Johnson is third for Sweden on First Lady, just 0.6 in arrears, with three others all scoring under 40 penalties, including Paul Tapner and Stormhill Michael (8th).
Next best of the British are Mary King (14th on 46 pens), who with Apache Sauce is aiming to improve on her already substantial lead in the FEI HSBC Classics series, William Fox-Pitt, 15th with the 2008 winner Macchiato (46.2) and Oliver Townend, 20th on ODT Master Rose (48.2)
Keep up to date with the action from Luhmuhlen each day on the Horse & Hound website