In a star-studded line-up, the double Olympic champion heads the USA’s Lauren Kieffer on Veronica ll by just 0.3 of a penalty, with world number one and FEI Classics™ leader Michael Jung now in third on La Biosthetique Sam.
The tall, lean New Zealander, 61, who last triumphed at Burghley in 1999, made an elegant picture on the German-bred 13-year-old, the bay gelding remaining obedient yet lively and light in his paces as well as beautifully supple.
“I may have won Burghley five times, but I haven’t won it this century! Finally, this horse is starting to grow up. When I got him as a six-year-old he was so impetuous, but now he knows what he’s meant to do and I’ve got every confidence in him.” Sir Mark Todd (NZL), overnight leader going into cross country
Kieffer and the mare Veronica have a second place at Kentucky 2016 and 17th at Badminton this year under their belt, but it is their first visit to Burghley.
“Most of the American riders are sitting on thoroughbreds, so we’re pretty happy about tomorrow’s cross-country, but Burghley is something that’s in a class of its own and we have all studied it pretty carefully.” Lauren Kieffer (USA), second after dressage
Two more senior riders, Andrew Nicholson (NZL), 55, on Nereo and Britain’s Kristina Cook, 46, on Calvino ll, scored under 40 penalties and are in close contention in fourth and fifth places. Nicholson, currently fourth in the FEI Classics™, has also won Burghley five times, although never on the 17-year-old Nereo, his winning mount at Badminton this year.
Cook, a multiple winner of team medals, including at the recent FEI European Championships in Poland, is renowned for her skill as a cross-country rider but has never won a CCI4*, and her mark of 39.6 may give her the best chance yet.
“I don’t really do dressage in the 30s! So I’ll be going for it tomorrow. Calvino is only small-framed but he has the heart of a lion.” Kristina Cook, fifth after dressage and highest-placed of the home side
Cook will be first out on the cross-country course tomorrow at 11.30 CEST on Star Witness, currently 40th after dressage.
Follow all the action with live results on www.burghley-horse.co.uk