William Fox-Pitt has cruised into the lead after cross-country at the Fidelity Blenheim International Horse Trials.

With Catherine Witt’s Parklane Hawk, William was one of only seven riders to beat the clock around Blenheim’s undulating terrain and finish under the 10min 56sec optimum.

“He’s a New Zealand thoroughbred with a really good gallop, but I’d never ridden him at this level before, so I didn’t quite know what to expect,” said William.

Dressage leaders Ruth Edge and Carnaval Prince II jumped a class round, but their 3.2 time penalties proved costly and dropped them just below William on 45.6.

“This is the longest course he’s done and he was fabulous. Next time I’ll know what I have to do to get the time,” said Ruth, who had been backwards and forwards to the Dressage Deluxe National Dressage Championships at Stoneleigh today, where both her horses finished in the top 10 in the medium open championship.

Piggy French and Chase The Moon retain their third place overnight, also finishing under the optimum.

Scores are packed tightly at the top — just one showjump separates the top four going into the final phase.

Neil Spratt and Upleadon are within a rail in fourth, while Piggy’s other ride, Flying Machine, added just 0.8 of a penalty across the country to lie fifth.

Problems were well spread around Eric Winter’s 29-fence cross-country course. There were 53 clears from 83 starters and only one horse fall – for Jolyse Clancey and On Springs at the influential Ariat Dewpond at fence 6.

Eight and nine-year-olds

Ruth Edge jumped an immaculate clear with Applejack II to retain her position at the top of the eight- and nine-year-old CIC*** leaderboard. Brook Staples (DHI Vitesse) and Mark Todd (NZB Land Vision) occupy second and third places respectively. Sam Griffiths and Real Dancer, who went into the showjumping in second place, lowered two rails and dropped to seventh.

Results after cross-country: CCI***

1st William Fox-Pitt on Parklane Hawk 44
2nd Ruth Edge on Carnaval Prince II 45.6
3rd Piggy French on Chase The Moon 46.2
4th Neil Spratt on Upleadon 47.2
5th Piggy French on Flying Machine 48.4
6th Aoife Clark on Master Crusoe 48.6

Results after showjumping: CIC***

1st Ruth Edge on Applejack II 42
2nd Brook Staples on DHI Vitesse 44
3rd Mark Todd on NZB Land Vision 45

Don’t miss Horse & Hound’s full report on all the Blenheim action, on sale next Thursday