Popular German rider Ingrid Klimke may have her best chance of a four-star victory yet as she leads after dressage at Luhmühlen horse trials on her rising star Tabasco TSF.

The dual Olympic medallist, who is outstanding in the dressage phase, revealed that she was persuaded to bring the black gelding here by team trainers Chris Bartle and Hans Melzer, who want to see if the 13-year-old by Heraldik is championship material.

“We will know by Sunday!” said Ingrid. “There are lots of challenges on the cross-country, but he has gained plenty of experience at three-star level where he has been straight and focussed over a variety of courses, including at Houghton Hall [where he won the CIC***].”

Lucinda Fredericks and Flying Finish, last year’s runners-up, are just 2.7pen in arrears on a score of 36.7. This is only Lucinda’s second competition this year on Flying Finish, having spent two months on the sidelines after breaking her collarbone in a rotational fall in March.

“I’m obviously nervous about the cross-country but, considering what I was like three months ago, I’m in good shape,” Lucinda said. “I intend to give the horse a good warm-up and get in the zone.”

Andrew Nicholson, for whom a good Luhmühlen could clinch the HSBC FEI Classics, has made an excellent start. He is in third place on 38pen on his Chatsworth winner, Mr Cruise Control; 14th on Rathmoyle King, a horse he is riding temporarily for Carolyne Ryan-Bell; and 20th on Qwanza.

Zara Phillips produced the only other sub-40 mark and is in fourth place on High Kingdom on 39.7 with a markedly matured performance compared to Badminton.

Nicola Wilson is the next best Brit, in 11th on 47.5 on Opposition Buzz, 0.2 ahead of Badminton winner Jock Paget on the four-star debutant Bullet Proof.

William Fox-Pitt is 13th on Neuf des Coeurs on 47.7 and 15th on his Olympic silver medallist Lionheart with 48.2.

The big drama of the afternoon was Bettina Hoy’s test on Lanfranco TSF. She did well to stay on when he reared repeatedly in the rein-back and came close to elimination for resistance. As a result Bettina is currently languishing last of the 50 starters on 80.8, something which has probably never happened to her before.

However, no-one believes this will be a dressage competition. Mark Phillips’s course is big, wide, twisting and technical. Andrew Nicholson will be first out, on Rathmoyle King at around 12noon British time, and you can watch it live on FEI TV.

Results on www.luhmuehlen.de