Andrew Nicholson and Nereo stay in prime position after a superb day of cross-country action at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials today (9 May 2015). This supreme cross-country partnership was among 12 who achieved clears in the time around Giuseppe della Chiesa’s course.

The only dodgy moment was when Nereo tripped up the step out of the water – one of a number of horses to do so – but while others unshipped their riders, Andrew reminded everyone why he’s known as ‘Mr Stickability’ by sitting tight. Apart from this their beautifully judged round, which was one second under the time, was pure class.

Andrew Nicholson (NZL) riding Nereo during the cross country phase of The Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials at Badminton in Gloucestershire, UK; on 9th May 2015

William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning remain in second place snapping at Andrew’s heels, just 1.2 penalties behind the New Zealand rider. The 15-year-old stallion by Phantomic set off around the course with great gusto and didn’t give William any cause for concern until the World Horse Welfare Garden Gates, where he was fighting for his head and rattled the second one.

William said: “I couldn’t have been on a better horse. He’s a stallion and he’s proved that he can jump around Badminton, which is great. He went very easily and was up on his minute markers throughout, which I didn’t expect. The ground was perfect and I was easing up on him before the finish.”

The top five places on the leaderboard remain unchanged after cross-country. Jock Paget and Clifton Promise dropped down from sixth to 10th after they collected 6.4 time-penalties. Paul Tapner and Indian Mill moved up one place to sixth with a clear inside the time.

Andrew Nicholson now has two horses in the top 10 as Calico Joe jumps up from 12th to seventh with a fault-free round.

Andrew said: “When I rode Nereo I thought that if there was shower of rain later it would help me, because the ground would get more holding. But the rain stayed away and when I went round with Calico Joe he made it feel like fast ground. He was on top of it, not sinking into it as Nereo had in places.”

Badminton bad luck stories

Andrew Hoy had one of the worst days, taking unscheduled baths from both his rides. Lanfranco unshipped Andrew when he ran past the skinny brush in the middle of the Gatehouse New Pond. Enjoying his new found freedom, the gelding then jumped the first element in the pond in reverse and galloped back along the track before making a bid for freedom over the ropes near the Mirage Pond.

Andrew tweeted later: “Took a bath on my first round on Lanfranco — we’re both fine. He is happily eating hay and I am looking forward to riding Rutherglen! :-)”

Sadly his second ride also came to a damp end when Rutherglen left a leg jumping into the lake, leaving Andrew requiring a second change of clothes.

12abcThe step out of the Lake at 12cd caught out a number of competitors when their horses tripped up the bank. The Lake was responsible for eight riders walking home, including the youngest rider at the event, Niklas Bschorer, whose air jacket went off when he had an awkward moment up the step out. He jumped the alternative C and D with it inflated before pulling up.

Beanie Sturgis produce a brilliant save here with Lebowski when she dragged herself back into the plate to complete with 20 penalties, while a number of other riders experienced an awkward journey.

Course-designer Giuseppe della Chiesa said: “I was very pleased with the course. When the conditions are perfect, it should look like that. The pictures were good and the atmosphere was fantastic.”

➤ View the leaderboard after cross-country and cross-country fence analysis

➤ Rejoin us tomorrow for H&H Live for both showjumping sessions

Don’t miss our full 24-page report on all the action from Badminton in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 14 May, 2015