William left the start box with three horses, all of whom were lying inside the top 10. However, both Seacookie and Fernhill Pimms were retired after glance offs at fence 11, the Abingdon & Witney College Bar and Corner. Freddie Mac, one of eight horses to finish inside the optimum time, prompted the crowd to gasp when he took off early for the b element and slithered across it.
“I’m not jumping that fence very well today am I?” said William. “Freddie was very good to stay on his feet. He jumped the table nicely and it was a good turn but I seemed to have no contact or rein and therefore I couldn’t adjust him.”
Course-designer Eric Winter confirmed that this is the last time this combination will be used at Blenheim.
William has no fences in hand tomorrow, as Francis Whittington and Easy Target are only 0.8 of a penalty behind him. Francis is also well placed on Fernhill Highlight in fifth.
“I’ve got two horses in the top five — I’m thrilled with that,” said Francis. “They both pulled up well and feel good and healthy.”
Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy have moved into third, 1pen ahead of Jodie Amos and Wise Crack.
“He’s still relatively young and this is his second three-star CCI. He coped so well,” said Jodie of the 10-year-old gelding. “He’s super brave, but at the same time he’s agile and athletic. I’m very lucky.”
Italy’s Vittoria Panizzon is in sixth with Merlots Magic, while Kitty King has slipped one place to seventh after picking up 6.4 time-faults on Persimmon.
Pippa Funnell (Second Supreme), America’s Philip Dutton (Fernhill Cubalawn) and Kiwi Jock Paget (Shady Grey) have moved into eighth, ninth and 10th respectively. These three riders were outside the top 20 after the dressage.
The overnight leaders, Andrew Hoy and Cheeky Calimbo, dropped out of contention when they picked up 20pens at the Brightwells Elite Event Horse Auction Corners, fence 23.
Emily King, lying second overnight, suffered an unlucky fall from Brookleigh at fence two, the Biffa Archway, and Belgium’s Lara De Liedekerke pulled up Quella Langonnaise at the Saffery Champness Tax Question (24) when on target for 10th.
Laura Collett withdrew Grand Manoeuvre, lying seventh, after the dressage due to the rider having a broken foot.