Jonathan Paget holds his first four-star lead after he and Clifton Promise remained on their 36.7 dressage mark after cross-country at Pau, France.
The pair, who were part of New Zealand’s Olympic bronze medal-winning team at London 2012, came home well inside the time after an impressive cross-country round.
“I found it a mentally challenging course – you could never fall asleep, which you shouldn’t be able to do at this level,” he said. “But it rode a lot better than I thought it would.”
They were able to move up a place after dressage after leaders Christopher Burton and Underdiscussion retired after having two stops on course.
Olympic champion Michael Jung is second for Germany on Leopin FST. They also remained on their dressage mark of 38.3 – in total 10 combinations were clear inside the time round Pierre Michelet’s track.
Third are two further members of the New Zealand bronze medal team in London, Andrew Nicholson and Nereo, who skipped round the cross-country without turning a hair.
They sit on a mark of 39.3 and, with fourth-placed Astier Nicolas (Jhakti Du Janlie), first of the French, and William Fox-Pitt, fifth on Bay My Hero, just behind on 39.5 and 41.7, Jonathan Paget has no room for breathing space in tomorrow’s final showjumping phase.
William Fox-Pitt is also sixth on the stallion Chilli Morning, the day’s trailblazer. They added nothing to their 44.7 dressage mark, despite a slightly sticky moment going into the technical first water jump.
And Andrew Nicholson also has a second horse in the top 10 – Mr Cruise Control, another to remain on his dressage score of 45.7 in seventh place.
It wasn’t all plain sailing, however. Mary King was fired over Imperial Cavalier’s head on landing after a plain fence halfway round the course, and Mark Todd and Major Milestone tipped up at another seemingly straightforward jump. All four are uninjured, however.
Other riders to drop from contention included Bill Levett (Hippolyte, seventh), and Karin Donckers (Lamicell Charizard, eighth) , both of whom retired after two refusals.
Mary King also retired her first ride, Kings Temptress, 19th after dressage, following an early run-out.
Laura Collett and Noble Bestman, 17th after dressage, also retired after two stops going into the first water complex.
There were 33 cross-country finishers from 60 who started the day, 22 of whom incurred no jumping penalties.
Pau CCI**** top 10 after cross-country
1. Jonathan Paget (NZL) Clifton Promise 36.7
2. Michael Jung (GER) Leopin FST 38.3
3. Andrew Nicholson (NZL) Nereo 39.3
4. Astier Nicolas (FRA) Jhakati Du Janlie 39.5
5. William Fox-Pitt (GBR) Bay My Hero 41.7
6. William Fox-Pitt (GBR) Chilli Morning 44.7
7. Andrew Nicholson (NZL) Mr Cruise Control 45.7
8. Kevin McNab (NZL) Clifton Pinot 50.2
9. Gemma Tattersall (GBR) Stormhill Kossack 50.5
10. Caroline Powell (NZL) Onwards And Upwards 53.2