Piggy French has moved a step closer to a first four-star win, and is closing up on Mary King for the FEI HSBC Classics, after taking the cross-country lead at Luhmuhlen horse trials with the relatively untried Flying Machine.

French had to fight blinding rain for her entire round, at one stage peeling off both gloves in an attempt to get more purchase on the reins, but still managed to finish just three seconds over the time.

“I have not managed to run him as often as you would like to before a four-star, but the shock treatment seems to have worked, ” she said.

“I am very excited about how he coped with it all. I am lucky to have many lovely horses to ride and when you have a day like this, its a bonus.

“The rain was unbelievable, and my gloves were heavy with water and half hanging off anyway, so I got rid of them. It was no better without them!” she added.

Piggy does, though, have only 0.6 penalties in hand over Sandra Auffarth and Opgun Louvo of Germany, who rode the round of her life to move up to second from fourth, and just 1.4 penalties over Andreas Dibowski and Euroridings Butts Leon who is now third.

Ovenight leaders Frank Ostholt and Little Paint also had a beautiful round, but came home 17 seconds over time to drop to fourth.

It was a good day for the British with Mary King (Apache Sauce) and Wiilliam Fox-Pitt (Macchiato) rising eight places each to sixth and seventh, Oliver Townend (ODT Master Rose) to 10th and Francis Whittington (Sir Percival) to 12th.

Paul Tapner and Stormhill Michael are in ninth after surviving a scare jumping into the main water complex. Michael tried to bank the elevated water tray and almost lay down in it, but somehow scrambled off and completed the rest of the combination flawlessly.

Overnight placings
1, Piggy French (Flying Machine), 38.4; 2, Sandra Auffarth (Opgun Louvo, GER), 39; 3, Andreas Dibowski (Euroridings Butts Leon, GER), 39.8; 4, Frank Ostholt (Little Paint, GER), 42.1; 5, Dirk Schrade (Hop and Skip, GER), 45.2; 6, Mary King (Apache Sauce), 46.

Check the Horse & Hound website for more Luhmuhlen reports