New Zealand’s Sir Mark Todd is in the lead after the dressage phase at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials in England.

Back on form

Putting his two errors-of-course from the previous day on NZB Campino (pictured) behind him, Mark pulled off a fantastic dressage test, with just a small blip in the extended trot, to sit at the head of affairs with 26.4 penalties.

It was the same result for him as last year on Leonidas II but this year it was with Burghley debutante Kiltubrid Rhapsody, with whom he finished sixth at Badminton in the spring of this year.

“He was very good,” admitted Mark. “From where he is in his training he couldn’t have done much more today. He was a bit nervous warming up, but he has a wonderful temperament and is just getting better and better.”

‘Finally maturing’

Mark’s compatriot, Tim Price, husband of this year’s Badminton and Luhmuhlen winner Jonelle, sits second with Ringwood Sky Boy on 26.9 penalties. Fourth here in 2016 and fifth in 2017, this combination could certainly be in the mix come Sunday afternoon.

When asked about what aspects of the quirky 15-year-old’s test he was most impressed with, Tim replied, “We stood still three times! He’s gone sideways and backwards when halting in tests at major competitions in the past — maybe this is him finally maturing.”

Long-time leader Oliver Townend now lies in third with MHS King Joules on 27.2 penalties, but has an exceptionally strong hand to play over the weekend with last year’s winner Ballaghmor Class sitting in fifth on 27.9 and Cooley SRS seventh on 29.4 penalties.

Three US riders in the mix

Great Britain’s Sarah Bullimore and Reve Du Rouet currently sit fourth and Germany’s Andreas Dibowski with FRH Butts Avedon sixth. Bruce Davidson Jr lies in equal 16th — best of the US riders — with 32.1 penalties on Park Trader. The only other US combination to run today was Lillian Heard on LCC Barnaby. They lie in 47th on 36.4 penalties.

Tomorrow’s cross-country phase looks set to be extremely influential, with just over three seconds separating the top five and 10 seconds separating the top 10 combinations.

“There are some big jumps out there and I can’t remember ever going up and down hill here so much, or going up the big pull up Winners Avenue at around the seven to eight minute mark” said Mark Todd. “It’s going to be a stamina test and the optimum time is going to be tough to get.”

Cross-country action starts tomorrow at 11am local time with Oliver Townend and MHS King Joules first out of the start box.

You can watch this iconic equestrian event on H&C as we are showing highlights on Tuesday September 18 at 8pm EST, so make sure you sign up to Horse & Country now!