New Zealander Andrew Nicholson leads the way after day one of this year’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.
The Wiltshire-based former world number one has completed Badminton a record 33 times since making his debut in 1984 – but he has never won it.
That, though, could be about to change after a dressage score of 37.8 on Nereo gave him a clear overnight lead from his fellow New Zealander Jonathan Paget and Clifton Promise.
Germany’ s 20-year-old Niklas Bschorer, the youngest competitor at Badminton this year, delivered a brilliant performance on Tom Tom Go 3 to hold third, while Flora Harris is currently the leading British rider in fourth.
Behind Harris, though, are a number of other British challengers in the top 10, including Pippa Funnell. Mary King and Laura Collett, and highly-fancied British pair William Fox-Pitt (Chilli Morning) and Oliver Townend (Armada) launch their challenges on Friday.
The opening day, though, was all about 53-year-old Nicholson, who took charge with a commanding dressage performance that left everyone else in his wake.
But Paget, the 2013 Badminton champion now back competing in top-level eventing after being suspended and then cleared following Promise’s positive test for the banned substance reserpine, also looks well-set for Saturday’s cross-country challenge.
Fox-Pitt and Townend apart, other strong contenders in action on Friday include Tina Cook (De Novo News), Gemma Tattersall (Arctic Soul), Germany’s Ingrid Klimke (Horseware Hale Bob) and New Zealander Tim Price (Ringwood Sky Boy).
And with predicted good weather for the remainder of this year’s Badminton, things are set fare for a thrilling competition.