BRITISH eventing star William Fox-Pitt is within sight of his first major individual championship title after performing a cross-country masterclass in punishing conditions at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy.
But the day was marred by tragedy for Team GB after Harry Meade's horse Wild Lone collapsed and died having successfully completed the cross-country course in 24th place.
It is a year since Meade, from Luckington, broke both his elbows in a fall from a different horse (Shannondale Santiago) which looked like ending his competitive career.
But the 31-year-old son of three-time Olympic champion Richard Meade made a remarkable recovery to finish third at this year's Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials on Wild Lone.
His astonishing year was capped when he made the reserve list for the GB team in the world championship and he was than promoted into the team itself following the withdrawal of Pippa Funnell and Izzy Taylor.
In a statement the WEG organisers said: "It is with great sadness that we announce that Wild Lone, ridden by Harry Meade and owned by Charlotte Opperman, collapsed and died at approximately 16.15 today after completing the cross-country.
"The rider had dismounted and shortly afterwards the horse tragically collapsed and died."
An emotional Meade bravely attended a post-event press conference and said: "I would like to thank the organisers and the vets on site. The horse in no way suffered. He was a wonderful horse.
"He was so well within himself that I could have asked for a little bit more. He felt extremely comfortable.
"I'm obviously devastated about what's happened and I wanted to state I thought the course was a very good test, and I would be sad if anybody was to draw any incorrect conclusions."
Britain are in second spot in the team competition ahead of today’s final show jumping phase.
Gatcombe’s Zara Phillips, riding High Kingdom, and Tina Cook aboard De Novo News delivered resilient displays on a cross-country track so demanding that no combination from 91 starters finished inside an optimum time of 10min 30sec.
There were a number of high-profile challengers who did not complete the course, including New Zealand duo Mark Todd and Jonathan Paget.
Cook lies 14th and Phillips 15th but it is Dorset’s Fox-Pitt (Chilli Morning) who is in the gold medal position after collecting 12.8 time faults.
He holds an advantage of 1.7 penalties over Germany's Sandra Auffarth (Opgun Louvo), knowing that a clear round at the Stade D'Ornano in Caen will guarantee world individual gold.
But he also cannot afford any mistakes, as the top five – Fox-Pitt, Auffath, reigning Olympic champion Michael Jung, plus New Zealanders Jonelle Price and Wiltshire-based Andrew Nicholson – are separated by less than the value of one showjumping fence being knocked down.
Pre-competition favourites Germany stand on 177.9 penalties in the team event, followed by Britain (186.8), Australia (226.8), France (235.5) and Holland (238.8).