William Fox-Pitt looks almost unbeatable going in to the final show jumping day at Bramham Horse Trials, as he lies in first and second places in the CCI***.
His dressage leader, Mr Dumbledore, owned by David and Margie Hall and Jeremy and Judy Skinner, flew round the testing cross-country course without time-penalties, and is on a score of 37.4pen, 7.8pen ahead of Idalgo, also ridden by William, who added just 0.4pen to his dressage score for 45.6.
So the 2004 Badminton winner has three fences in hand over third-placed Caroline Powell and Fortunesnight.
“But I may need all of them,” William said. “Dumbledore’s show jumping is erratic – he’s improving and capable, but it’s not quite there yet.”
He was thrilled with the nine-year-old Australian-bred gelding, who William bought from a video.
“I didn’t know what to expect from his, and I certainly didn’t expect him to go inside the time,” he said. “He can get very fazed by lots of people and is easily distracted, which won’t help him tomorrow.”
The French horse, Idalgo, who William described as “unmanageable” last spring, produced a beautiful clear, with only a little difference of opinion between horse and rider at the second-last fence marring their round.
“He has to learn to listen to me still, but he’s a terrific ride,” said William.
New Zealand rider Caroline Powell also has two horses in the top five at this stage – Fortunesnight, third with a clear inside the time on 53.7, and Ballycathro, fifth with 61.1pen.
Splitting her two horses is Cheshire-based Polly Stockton riding Sir Lancelot VI, who have pulled up from 19th after dressage to fourth on a score of 59.5pen, adding just 5.6 time-faults.
Julie Tew, making up for a disappointing first Badminton ride, is in sixth place on the grey Sir Roselier, while Jonty Evans and Cregwarrior made their customary leap up the placings with a fast clear to jump from 36th after dressage to seventh.
Bettina and Andrew Hoy, second and fifth after dressage, both ran into trouble, with Bettina falling in the final water and Andrew glancing off at the penultimate corner.
In the under-25 section, sponsored by Bishop Burton College, Izzy Taylor and Flint Curtis have crept from fourth to first with a clear round and just four time-penalties – on 54pen, they are just 0.2pen ahead of Phoebe Buckley and The Busker, while Daniel Leech (Upward Trend) was one of only two in this section clear inside the time and is in third on his dressage score of 59.1 .