William Fox-Pitt couldn’t quite hold onto the lead in the dressage phase of the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event yesterday.

He scored 41.3pen with Parklane Hawk to put him in second place after American Allison Springer turned in a lovely performance on Arthur little more than an hour later to edge him with a score of 39.8.

She was the only entry in the 57-horse field at the Kentucky Horse Park to break the 40-penalty barrier. Allison was third last year in dressage at America’s only four-star, but was eliminated on cross-country when her horse fell.

William was pleased with his 2011 Burghley winner, saying: “He’s a fantastic horse. He’s got great ability, he’s got good focus and he did a very nice test, but it wasn’t perfect.”

He explained: “The annoying thing was that the blips he made this year he didn’t make last year. The trot work has come on a lot, but last year, the canter work was stronger.”

While he noted the 12-year-old New Zealand thoroughbred did display “some tension” in the atmosphere provided by a good crowd in the imposing stadium, William said: “I’m quite relaxed about that. After they do a big four-star like Burghley, they do come back a little bit on their toes.”

William said he wanted a positive post-Burghley run on the horse, explaining: “I’m hoping it will be a good experience for us and another opportunity to form a better partnership.”

Only one other British rider, Lucy Wiegersma, is in the top 10. She stands eighth with 47.5pen on Granntevka Prince. Oliver Townend finished just outside the top 10 with Pepper Anne (48.8), tied for 11th with American Becky Holder on the veteran Courageous Comet.

James Alliston, the California-based British rider, is far down in the rankings, finishing 23rd on Jumbo’s Jake with 55pen and 45th with Parker (62.5).

The cross-country course, which William described as “clever,” was designed by Derek Di Grazia, who took over the duties last year from Michael Etherington-Smith. Derek, who has visited Greenwich, had an eye toward preparing competitors for the Olympic experience in London.

He noted that, especially in the Kentucky infield: “We’re running quite a few tracks close together, which is hopefully going to give a little more of an intimate effect with the spectators, which will get the riders and horses used to the crowds.”

Keep in touch with all the action from Kentucky on Horseandhound.co.uk over the weekend. Full report will be in Horse & Hound magazine on Thursday 3 May.

Photo by Nancy Jaffer