Our first rider in the arena this morning at 9 o’clock sharp in the Equi-Trek CCI3* stole the lead and managed to stay there for the day’s duration.  That was Flora Harris with Caroline Harris and Rebecca Salt’s Bayano.  Their brilliant 36.8, equivalent to 75.45%, gave them a six penalty advantage ahead of the overnight leader, Gwendolen Fer.  Kitty King came close with a well presented 38.9 on Frank and Jane Inns’ Persimmon but it wasn’t quite enough.

The spectators flocked to the arena mid-morning to see what ‘Mr Bramham’, William Fox-Pitt could produce with the relative newcomer Fernhill Pimms, owned by Carol Gee and Catherine Witt.  The seven time winner didn’t disappoint and gave it his best shot but fell just short with 38.1.  It was enough to keep second as the final late challenge came from Pippa Funnell and Sandman 7, owned by her, mum Jenny Nolan and Ruth McMullen, who received a share in the horse for her 80th birthday as a thank you for her support over the years.  It looked to be a polished performance and the commentator announced a provisional score of 39 but that was later revised to 38.9 to equal Kitty to share third.

So World Class supported Flora Harris finds herself on top with Bayano. Afterwards she said; “He (Bayano) was very good today.  He used to be hot and tricky in the dressage but he’s recently got his head around it and was a very good boy.  As he’s developed, people kept saying he had loads of potential but it never seemed to appear!  But I think people underestimate how long it can take them to become strong enough to cope with 30 dressage movements at this level and I really feel he was worth persevering with!”

Flora is looking forward to tackling Ian Stark’s course tomorrow; “It’s a beautiful course and it certainly won’t be a dressage competition.  There’s plenty to test them but I think it will sit my horse.  We’ll be giving it our best shot, that’s for sure!”.

Third placed Kitty King was ‘delighted’ with her ride; “He went really well and tried; his changes were the best they’ve ever been and he stayed soft and supple the whole time,” she said.

Pippa was equally happy with her ‘special’ horse; “I’m delighted with him and he’s improving all the time.  He’s not had a conventional start as I bought him from a video from Germany on the advice of a good friend.  His win at Chatsworth has brought him on but he’s had a quick rise having done one one star and one two star but we did take him to Boekelo last October but I had a fall due to being hit by a branch on the cross country.  It will be interesting to see how tomorrow goes; we’re short on practice at big waters but he coped well at Chatsworth so we’ll see.”

Pippa also finds herself top of the pile in the British Equestrian Trade Association CIC3* with her own and Carol Toliver’s homebred Billy the Biz.  By Cevin Z, the grey was originally bred to show jump and indeed Carol bought him, and another, to become a jumping owner but Pippa spotted eventing potential in him.  The horse is a character at home and is the ‘phantom raspberry blower’ as he loves to perform for the yard and then deny all knowledge!  Their 34.7 wasn’t to be beaten and home favourite Nicola Wilson held on to second with her parents Mary and Barry Tweddle’s Anne Clover on 37.4.  New Zealand rider Caroline Powell is third with Onwards and Upwards on 39.0.

Pippa was clearly surprised; “If you’d have bet me £20,000 I’d never have believed he could do a test like that when we started eventing him.   He was bred to show jump and did well but then we felt he was brave enough for eventing but he simply didn’t move for dressage.  He’s a freak on the flat; I never expected him to score below 50, never mind below 40!”  Ahead of tomorrow she added; “This will be his first big test as he’s been ‘fast-tracked’ and he’s never seen some of the fences.  I’ll ride him how he’s going, not to chase the clock so we’ll just have to see where that leaves us.”

Nicola gave her thoughts on tomorrow’s test; “There’s a lot to jump out there and as with all of Ian’s courses, you have to ride every stride from start to finish.  My two CIC horses are experienced so the run should set them up ahead of our summer campaign after their good runs at Lexington but it’s Bulana’s first three star and a big step up for her.  I’m looking forward to it and excited for what tomorrow brings.”

The Bishop Burton College u25 CCI3*was a celebration of strong eventing dressage with the top four riders all going sub-40.  It was Holly Woodhead with Ian and Heidi Woodhead’s DHI Lupison who scored a stunning 33.0 – which equates to 78.01%.  Holly started her equestrian career in dressage, representing Britain at the Pony European Championships in 2009 and 2010 before directing her full attention to eventing so her skill for the phase started early but Lupison exceeded expectations today. “Wow…just wow!  I never expected that!” she said.  “We’ve had good preparation before coming here but that’s the best test he’s done to date; I couldn’t have asked anything more from him.  I’m lucky as my sister (dressage rider Amy) had him for a few days while I was competing at Tattersalls last week and her training has obviously worked!  I also have to say a huge thanks to Gill Watson who has helped me to really focus and also the World Class Programme for all it provides – it gives you a kick when you need it or hug if you need one of those!” she continued. The performance was particularly poignant as DHI Lupison was owned by Holly’s grandfather Alan who passed away last Sunday.

Millie Dumas is second with Susan Larson and her own Artistiek on 36.7 while Dani Evans and Raphael II had to settle for third after leading the dressage in 2013 and ’14 on 38.3.

Holly concluded; “I’m really excited about tomorrow – it’s my – and his – first ever three star and it’s a typical Ian Stark course; big, bold and beautiful.  I still can’t get over today’s score though!”

Tomorrow’s action gets under way in the Equi-Trek arena with the BETA CIC3* show jumping at 08:30 and first horse sets off on Ian Stark’s cross country at 09:30 in the Equi-Trek CCI3*, followed by the Bishop Burton College u25 CCI3* at 13.16 before the climax of the CIC3* at 14.50.

You can hear what the riders had to say on our media player.

Follow the results here throughout the day.