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American Sinead Halpin still first after Burghley Horse Trials cross-country

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Sinead Halpin holds her lead after an exciting cross-country day at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.

The American rode Bernadette Cogdell’s 12-year-old Manoir De Carneville to put in one of just four rounds inside the 11min 30sec optimum time, improving on her 4.8 time-faults last year.

“He’s not a speed demon, but he’s easy to adjust so my aim was to do as little adjusting as possible to make it as easy for him as possible,” she said. “Last year I was overwhelmed by the sheer size of the fences and unfamiliarity of the track, but this year I was more confident with what I needed to do and where I lost time last year.”

William Fox-Pitt complimented his former pupil, saying: “Sinead set the standard and made it look so easy. Not many did that today.”

William himself lies third overnight and best Brit after finishing 6sec over the time on the defending champion, Catherine Witt’s Parklane Hawk. He said: “I thought I was going to make up time near the end and couldn’t. My horse gets quite keen and I lost a second in places setting him up. But he could have gone round again – he’s a freak like that – and he’s a fantastic galloper. He’s made for Burghley.”

Andrew Nicholson holds second with Rosemary Barlow’s Avebury, who was 2sec over the time. The New Zealander also put in the first fault-free round of the day with Calico Joe (eighth) and he said he knew the time would be difficult to get after his first ride on this speedy horse.

Oliver Townend holds fourth after a great round inside the time on Armada, thanking owner Paul Ridgeon and former rider Andrew Nicholson again for letting him take the ride this season as Andrew had too many top-level horses.

“He takes a lot of time and comes with a handbook written in Chinese, but it was great to be on a horse I knew could go in the time,” said the 2009 winner.

He admitted he had a worrying moment at the Burghley Station white oxer at 25 when the chestnut spotted a stride and steamed off from the top of the hill – and then took off a stride early. “It takes a seriously special horse to be able to do that over a fence that size.”

Sam Griffiths holds fifth for Australia on Happy Times, who was re-routed here after falling on the flat at the Olympics, with Jock Paget in sixth for New Zealand on Clifton Lush.

Looking to tomorrow’s showjumping, Sinead has a fence in hand to win, while the next three riders are all within a single pole of each other.

Ground plays its part

The track was influential today, with plenty faulting at the double of angled brushes in the Land Rover Trout Hatchery complex (fences 10/11ab), including Oliver’s first ride ODT Sonas Rovatio, who he then retired.

“He didn’t like the ground and this doesn’t take anything away from him for the future – I’m just glad he told me that early on and that he’s sound for another time,” said Oliver.

Discovery Valley (fences 6/7abc) took its victims too. Mary King ran-out at the last element with Kings Temptress and then retired, while William Fox-Pitt had an uncomfortable ride with Seacookie, who took off too far away at the trunk at fence 6 and came down on it heavily.

“It wasn’t a course to press on round with a horse who wasn’t at the races,” he said. “He’s short of runs and felt a bit overwhelmed.”

Course-designer Mark Phillips said the only aspect of the day which surprised him was that the ground had more of a cut than expected, which led to horses tiring. This contributed to a number of problems at the huge ditch and hedge at the Cottesmore Leap (fence 21).

“Riders went to press the button and didn’t get a response,” said Mark.

Clayton Fredericks, third after dressage, fell here with Walterstown Don, who leapt into the ditch, catapulting Clayton over onto the landing side. Both walked away.

South African rider’s horse put down

Heartbreak Hill, the ride of South Africa’s Paul Hart, has been put down. A statement issued by the event said he was “euthanised as a result of a spontaneous injury which caused a fracture to the fetlock whilst on the flat between fences 19-20 on the cross-country course”.

The horse, number 105, was a 16-year-old 16.2hh bay gelding, owned by Mr and Mrs Mike Marsden and the rider.

Follow every phase of Burghley as it happens using H&H Live, our interactive written commentary supported by Baileys Horse Feeds. Review the dressage and cross-country and join in tomorrow from 10.15am at www.horseandhound.co.uk/burghley2012live.

Make sure you buy H&H next week (6 September) for our 10-page special Burghley report, with full analysis of every phase, comments from dressage expert Sally O’Connor and former winner Ginny Elliot and more.

RESULTS AFTER LAND ROVER BURGHLEY CROSS-COUNTRY

1. Sinead Halpin on Manoir De Carneville (USA) 36.3
2. Andrew Nicholson on Avebury (NZL) 41.8
3. William Fox-Pitt on Parklane Hawk (GBR) 43.4
4. Oliver Townend on Armada (GBR) 43.5
5. Sam Griffiths on Happy Times (AUS) 46.4
6. Jock Paget on Clifton Lush (NZL) 48.2
7. Allison Springer on Arthur IV (USA) 49.2
8. Andrew Nicholson on Calico Joe (NZL) 53
9. Caroline Powell on Boston Two Tip (NZL) 53.5
10. Geoff Curran on Shanaclough Crecora (IRL) 54.7