THE new-look cross country course, coupled with strong winds and showers, made for a very challenging cross country day at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse trials today (Saturday).

There was plenty of drama for both riders and spectators as just 35 out of the 77 starting combinations managed to complete Guiseppe Della Chiesa’s new course, and not a single rider managed to finish close to the optimum time.

Paul Tapner and Kilronan, who led after the first day of dressage, has managed to regain the lead going into the final day’s show jumping tomorrow after a particularly quick round with just 20.4 time penalties, leaving him on a total score of 56.4 He said: “My ride didn’t exactly go to plan. I went long at Huntsman’s Close, which wasn’t part of the plan, but I knew I had to conserve energy. I’m really glad I did that, though, because even going the long route was hard work.

New Zealander Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy lies just over five penalties behind in second place, just one penalty ahead of Frenchman Pascal Leroy and Minos De Petra.

Asked whether he ever imagined he could move up from equal 41st after dressage to second, Tim said: “No, not in a competition like this. The horse was great, though. I think his fitness played a large part. He was still galloping well towards the end of the course, which meant I could travel well in the spaces that I could.”

Course-designer Giuseppe Della Chiesa admitted that he was surprised by the trouble the course caused.

“The expectation was that the course was strong and there were a lot of unexpected mishaps – but that’s the sport. I was surprised by how much trouble the keyhole at the Outlander Bank (fence 13) caused.

“Yes, I would like to have seen more horses finishing, but the statistics do not tell the whole story. A lot of the top riders retired their horses after having one refusal instead of carrying on.”

Two showjumps separate the top five at this stage, with one fence covering second to fifth places.

Oliver Townend is the highest-placed Brit with Armada on a score of 62.7, however it is Luckington’s Harry Meade, riding Wild Lone, who has had the best result amongst the local riders, rising up through the ranks to finish in eighth place at the end of the cross country with 67.4 pens.

Overnight leader Clark Montgomery (USA) retired Loughan Glen after a stop in Huntsman’s Close, while William Fox Pitt – much fancied for the win and possible Rolex Grand Slam, saw his chances diminish with an error near the end of the course at Fence 27, the Countrywide hedges.

Other local riders have also done well today, as Nick Gauntlett moves into 19th place riding Grand Manoeuvre while Tiana Coudray (USA), who shares Nick’s Chipping Sodbury yard, moves down to 29th Top five positions at the end of the cross-country phase: 1- Paul Tapner (AUS) – Kilronan (56.4) 2- Tim Price (NZL)– Ringwood Sky Boy (61.6) 3- Pascal Leroy (FRA)– Minos de Petra 62.5) 4- Oliver Townend – Armada (62.7) 5- Sam Griffiths (AUS) – Paulank Brockagh (63.9)