VISITORS to the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials enjoyed a break in the clouds to make the most of the second day of action at the world-famous equestrian event.

American Clark Montgomery is in the lead overnight riding Loughan Glen after the dressage phase with an excellent penalty score of 33.3, taking top position from the overnight leader Paul Tapner on Kilronan.

And there is plenty of local interest in Montgomery’s result, as he is based with 4* dressage judge Christian Landolt at his yard near Tetbury.

“The horse has put in some good marks before and I knew he was capable of this standard if all went well,” said Montgomery.

“He felt amazing. I knew he was capable of producing that sort of test, but it’s the first time he’s performed in front of a crowd like that. He loves an atmosphere and he really perked up in there.”

British favourite William Fox-Pitt, who has just claimed victory in the Kentucky leg of the Rolex Grand Slam, is hoping to claim the title for a second time, goes into the cross-country phase in equal seventh place on a penalty score of 41 riding Parklane Hawk, after a disappointing ride on Cool Mountain put him down in 57th position. He shares the seventh spot with Marlborough-based New Zealander Andrew Nicholson, who is riding Nereo.

Other local hopefuls include Woolard’s Dani Evans, who currently lies in 18th position, with Chipping Sodbury’s Nick Gauntlett in 25th place, but sadly there was early disappointment for Bristol University graduate Vittoria Panizzon, who is based near Moreton-in-Marsh, who was forced to withdraw her London 2012 ride Borough Pennyz with a bruised foot.

More than 150,000 people are expected to attend the cross country phase of the event today (Saturday) despite forecasts of heavy rain and strong winds.

Organisers are already preparing for tricky conditions and have removed the middle element of fence 18abc, a trio of logs on an S-bend.

Paul Tapner, in second place with 36pens, said: “That particular fence wasn’t in keeping with the rest of the course, which requires bold, forward-thinking riding and with the weather forecast as it is, I think it’s a good decision.”

As always, heavy traffic is predicted for all routes to Badminton, but visitors are being advised to avoid the B4039 in particular, as ‘JapFest’ is also taking place this weekend at the Castle Combe circuit.