Francis Whittington’s successful relationship with Gatcombe continued today (he won here with Osh Kosh last year), with two brilliant results. Following a competitive second on Sir Percival III in the EHOA Martin Collins Novice Championship this morning, he battled it out with Clayton Fredericks once again in the Cantor Odds Advanced Section 1 in the afternoon sun, but this time, the Brit emerged the winner, an impressive 10.5 penalties ahead.

He and Spin Doctor achieved what was by a long way the fastest cross country round in his section, and one of the fastest of the day, adding just 4.4 time penalties to his dressage score.

“The key has been allowing the horse to jump out of his own momentum, which means you waste less time and energy approaching and leaving the fence,” said Francis.

“This horse has had a bit of a chequered history – he’s never really had the results that you might expect from an animal of his quality, although that seems to be coming together now, touch wood.”

The next goal for the pair is Burghley. Francis had been waiting to see whether outings in the advanced at Aston-Le-Walls in July, and here at Gatcombe, were good enough to suggest that the horse could cope with Burghley. He was 2nd at Aston, and 1st here, so it’s a no-brainer.

Clayton Fredericks continued his run of good fortune with a second in this class, although it was not confirmed without controversy. He was eliminated from the competition on the grounds that he had missed a fence, but Horse & Hound photographer Trevor Meeks had luckily caught the Aussie in action over the fence, forcing his reinstatement in a bizarre turn of events.

“I’m absolutely knackered,” said Fredericks. “I’ve ridden four horses cross country and show jumping today. Still, I’m sick of sitting down the prize-giving from Lucinda [Fredericks, his wife] so I thought I’d better pull the stops out today!”

In Advanced section 2, the results table had been turned upside down by lunchtime. The Americans, who had occupied the top eight places after yesterday’s dressage, had been matched by Andrea Morris and Christopher Burton, with Daisy Dick not far behind, well in the running. The US challenge further disintegrated during the show jumping, with only one clear round from the Athens-bound crew before they bowed out ahead of the final phase.

There were some impressive rounds in merciless sunshine, but Daisy Dick, one of the last to go with her own and her mother’s Spring Along, fought off any rivals to land victory in her section.

“I knew I couldn’t hang around across country, but I really didn’t want to rush him with Burghley coming up”, said Daisy.

But the horse had speed enough to motor through what the rider said was ” a big, imposing and very technical course. Although it did ride very well!”

There is an air of New Zealand bravado about the goings-on at Gatcombe this weekend. Two Athens-bound riders – Andrew Nicholson and Dan Jocelyn – could be spotted on the advanced cross country this afternoon (albeit without their Olympic rides), while Nicholson has a host of rides in the Open Championship tomorrow. He managed a fourth on Duddles in Advanced Section 2 this afternoon.

Scotland was the flavour of the day in both the Intermediate and Open Championship dressage, with Ruth Friend heading both by a significant margin -riding Two Thyme in the Open, she was 6.5 penalties ahead of New Zealander Blyth Tait, who rode his Olympic ride Ready Teddy to finish on 29.7. Polly Stockton lies in 3rd with Oscar.

Cressida Clague Reading, who was eliminated after winning the Novice Championship here on James last year because the combination was over-qualified, looks set to avenge that upset. The combination is tucked tightly in behind Ruth Friend on Marsh Mayfly, less than a penalty behind the Intermediate leaders.

Advanced results:
Section 1.
1. Spin Doctor (Francis Whittington) 40.5
2. W P in Limbo (Clayton Fredericks AUS) 51.0
3. Classic Touch (Tristram Owers) 53.9
4. Sparrow Hall (Marie Ryan) 54.1
5. Wicked Time (Polly Williamson) 54.7
6. Kinsey Control (Caroline Pratt) 56.3

Section 2.
1. Spring Along (Daisy Dick) 42.7
2. Midnight Dazzler (Harry Meade) 43.1
3. Rock Model (Vittoria Panizzon ITA) 48.0
4. Duddles (Andrew Nicholson NZL) 49.6
5. Woodmount Spry (Christopher Burton) 50.1
6. Two for Joy (Polly Stockton) 52.9