William Fox-Pitt, the new world number one in the HSBC Rankings, heads the field after the first day of dressage at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials.
© Horsesports Photographic
The British rider leads Andrew Nicholson (NZ) and the attractive grey Avebury by 2.3 penalties. Elizabeth Power (Ire) and the ex-racehorse Kilpatrick River, back in action after their fall at Badminton in May and making their debut at Burghley, are third.
Fox-Pitt has also overtaken Mary King as the world number one in the new HSBC Rankings published yesterday. King is fourth on at Burghley on Apache Sauce.
Fox-Pitt, who was penalised for one error of course - halting at the wrong marker - described scoring in the 30s as a "psychological boost". He says of the New Zealand-bred thoroughbred by Grosvenor: "He has a superb brain and a lovely trot. He's all the things you dream about in a horse."
Fox-Pitt, Nicholson and King, who have decades of experience at Burghley between them, are viewing with interest the new-look cross country course, designed by Mark Phillips to have a more traditional look in honour of the event's 50th birthday.
Fox-Pitt, a five-time Burghley winner, said: "It's a big, attacking course. It feels quite long, but it's flowing, which should help riders get into a rhythm."
Nicholson, the winner in 1995 and 2000, commented: "The first part is quite intense with some difficult lines, and then it's a lot of big, plain fences. I think the key will be working out where to save energy. It's a good change of style and I hope we'll all enjoy it."
King, the 1996 winner, said: "It looks amazing. The fences are beautiful and much bigger than usual. Apache Sauce is capable of doing it, as long as his rider doesn't get it wrong!"
Australian rider Chris Burton, paying his first visit to Burghley since 2004, was more blunt: "It's very big, very long and very scary. A proper four-star track."
Ireland's Elizabeth Power is third on Kilpatrick River.
© Kate Houghton/FEI
Another rider who has seen Burghley's differing styles over 20 years is Blyth Tait (NZ), winner in 1998 and 2001. He is back from a seven-year retirement from the sport and is due to perform his dressage test today on Santos, a horse by the same sire, Grosvenor, as Parklane Hawk.
Other tests to look forward to include Burghley first-timer Sinead Halpin (US), who is currently lying seventh in the HSBC FEI Classics after finishing third at Rolex Kentucky in April on Manoir de Carneville, and the German pair Simone Deitermann and NRW Free Easy.
Seven former Burghley winners will come before the Ground Jury of Angela Tucker (GBR), Michel Asseray (FRA) and Christina Klingspor (SWE): Lucinda Fredericks (AUS), defending champion Caroline Powell (NZL), Pippa Funnell (GBR) and Oliver Townend (GBR), as well as Fox-Pitt, King and Nicholson on their second rides.
Results after first day of Dressage:
1 William Fox-Pitt/Parklane Hawk (GBR) 39.7 penalties
2 Andrew Nicholson/Avebury (NZL) 42.0
3 Elizabeth Power/Kilpatrick River (IRL) 43.3
4 Mary King/Apache Sauce (GBR) 44.8
5 Laurence Hunt/Pheobus (GBR) 45.3
6 Sam Griffiths/Happy Times (AUS) 45.5
7 Gaby Cooke/Sir Roscoe (GBR) 46.3
8 Oliver Townend/Neo du Breuil (GBR) 46.7
9 Fiona Hobby/Roma M.L. (GBR) 48.0
10 James Robinson/Comanche (GBR) 48.8
HSBC FEI Classics Standings (after 3 of 5 events)
1 Mary King (GBR) 28 points
2 Piggy French (GBR) 20
3 Mark Todd (NZL) 15
4 Andreas Dibowski (GER) 15
5 Sandra Auffarth (GER) 12
6 Clayton Fredericks (AUS) 12
7 Sinead Halpin (USA) 10
8 Frank Ostholt (GER) 10
9 William Fox-Pitt (GBR) 10
10 Oliver Townend (GBR) 9