Cotswolds-based American rider Clark Montgomery and Irish Sport Horse Loughan Glen today took a comfortable first-phase lead at the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials by 3.4 penalties.

After a supple and obedient test, crowned with an immaculate final canter to halt, the pair moved in front of overnight leader Sandra Auffarth on Ispo.

I was hoping to be in the top placings after dressage, and he’s put these scores in before, but you never know on the day,” said Clark of Holly and William Becker’s 12-year-old (pictured top competing at Badminton 2014). The pair went clear round Luhmuhlen four-star in June just one second over the optimum time, and would love to catch the eye of the American selectors ahead of Rio.

Clark is hopeful of a good performance tomorrow: “It’s his third time here and we know he likes the course going in this direction, and he’s capable of jumping everything.”

Sandra has only had the ride on Ispo for a year, this being the horse on which her compatriot Benjamin Winter was killed competing at Luhmuhlen in June of last year, and which is still owned by Benjamin’s mother.

“This was my best test with him and I’m really looking forward to cross country with him; he’s a good jumper,” said Sandra, who his paying her first visit to Blenheim and is impressed with what she’s seen.

“I made the right decision to stay a bit longer in England,” she said.

Their developing partnership was evident in the horse’s improved marks since Houghton in May, but they have good CIC3* form in Germany. With the Germans in dominant form this month, and Sandra having collected team gold and individual silver at Blair European Championships last week, they will be a key combination to watch across country tomorrow.

Initial reports showed Pippa Funnell as best of the British riders in third place with Billy The Biz, but an error had been made by the scorers and her 39.3pen was later revised down to 43.2pen for ninth place. This left Dani Evans and Raphael II as the highest placed British riders in third on 40.2pen.

View dressage leader board

Different continents tussle in eight/nine-year-old championship

In the CIC*** running concurrently for eight- and nine-year-olds, the leaderboard is more international still. New Zealand’s Jonelle Price leads Astier Nicolas (France) on Spes Addit Or, with China’s Alex Hua Tian third on Don Geniro. Francis Whittington is the best Brit after dressage in ninth place on Janette Chinn and Edwin and Sue Davies’s Cavalier Venture.

Jonelle won this class last year, but this year is aboard The Marley and Me Syndicate’s Cloud Dancer II.

“He’s smart – he moves very well, especially for an event horse, so I feel a bit of a responsibility to produce something a bit special,” said Jonelle. “He’s no Ferrari across country, but he gives it his best – a few seconds in hand would be handy!”

Since, as she demonstrated at Burghley, few people ride more economically across country than Jonelle, few people will set much store by this. These competitors showjump tomorrow (Saturday) while the 101 CCI competitors go across country tomorrow, the first horse at 9am.

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