With just 13 combinations inside the time, fast clears bore rich rewards in the cross-country phase of the CCI*** at Blenheim International Horse Trials. But the man leading the field remains USA’s Clark Montgomery on 12-year-old Loughan Glen, who consolidated his leading dressage score by going fast and clear across country today.

He has the comfort of being able to have two fences down tomorrow and still land the biggest win of his career.

“As soon as we left the start box he felt game,” said Clark. “We moved to England three years ago [to further his career] so it would be recognition of that; it would really mean a lot [to win].”

Foreign names continue to dominate the field, albeit not the same ones who filled the top placings after dressage. Christopher Burton lies second on Nobilis 18, who has been first or second in his past five events and who started his eventing career with man-of-the-moment Michael Jung.

New Zealand’s Tim Price is third on The Court Jester, a catch ride for the season while his regular jockey, Sami Birch, has been off having a baby. They finished a massive 16 seconds inside the optimum.

“He finds everything easy when he’s within himself,” said Tim. “This is the culmination of a season trying to establish him at this level. He did a career best dressage test.. but he’s not always been the most reliable show jumping,” he warned.

Dani Evans (third after dressage on Raphael II) still remains well placed in ninth after collecting a smattering of penalties as does Andrew Hoy on Cheeky Calimbo (lying fifth). But best British rider is now William Fox-Pitt on his 2011 European Championships mount and Rolex Kentucky winner Cool Mountain, who rode a textbook round inside the time.

“A happy day! I got through the finish and didn’t go the wrong way!” he cheered, referring to his recent upsets at Burghley and Blair. “It’s a bit of a luxury bringing him down to this level but he’s 15, he’s had a bit of time off, and he owes us nothing.”

Germany’s Sandra Auffarth has dropped to 20th after a deliberately steady first round at this level with her relatively new ride Ispo, and time faults also sank Franky Reid-Warrilow (Dolley Whisper) out of the top 20.

Kitty King and Ceylor LAN rose from 13th to sixth by virtue of a fast clear, Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V from 11th to seventh, and Tina Cook rose 12 places to sit in tenth on Calvino II.

Eight- and nine-year-old CIC3*

A testing showjumping track produced just 15 fault-free rounds from 68, and even a fall for poor Elizabeth Power. But overnight leader Jonelle Price and Cloud Dancer II were among them, giving them a comfortable buffer of almost 10pen going into cross-country tomorrow.

Ireland’s Jonty Evans lies second with Cooley Rourkes Drift with French riders Sidney Dufresne and Astier Nicolas hard on his heels in third and fourth.

Immaculate clears from Pippa Funnell and Emily King catapulted them into the top 10 at this stage, lying sixth and eighth respectively aboard Marek Sebestak’s Majas Hope and Lord Patrick Beresford’s Charlemagne.

Keep in touch with all the action from Blenheim on HorseandHound.co.uk across the weekend, and don’t miss the full report in H&H magazine, on sale Thursday 24 September