PAUL TAPNER (Kilronan) who led the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials after the first day of dressage, has gone back to the top of the leaderboard ahead of the final show jumping phase today.

Aussie Tapner, based in Highworth, jumped to the head of affairs on Saturday when a new-look course coupled with strong winds and showers, made for a very challenging cross country day.

Just 35 of the 77 starting combinations managed to complete Guiseppe Della Chiesa’s new course, and not a single rider finished close to the optimum time.

Tapner accrued just 20.4 time penalties, leaving him on a total score of 56.4.

He said: “My ride didn’t exactly go to plan. I went long at Huntsman’s Close, which wasn’t part of the plan, but I knew I had to conserve energy. I’m really glad I did that, though, because even going the long route was hard work."

New Zealander Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy lies just over five penalties behind in second place, one penalty ahead of Frenchman Pascal Leroy and Minos De Petra.

Course-designer Giuseppe Della Chiesa admitted that he was surprised by the trouble the course caused.

“The expectation was that the course was strong and there were a lot of unexpected mishaps – but that’s the sport. I was surprised by how much trouble the keyhole at the Outlander Bank (fence 13) caused.

“Yes, I would like to have seen more horses finishing, but the statistics do not tell the whole story. A lot of the top riders retired their horses after having one refusal instead of carrying on.”

Just two show jumps separate the top five at this stage, with one fence covering second to fifth places.

Oliver Townend is the highest-placed Brit with Armada on a score of 62.7, however it is Luckington’s Harry Meade, riding Wild Lone, who has had the best result among the local riders, rising up through the ranks to take eighth place at the end of the cross country with 67.4 pens.

Meade has made a remarkable recovery in the last two months from a career-threatening fall when he shattered both his elbows.

Overnight leader Clark Montgomery (USA) retired Loughan Glen after a stop in Huntsman’s Close, while third-placed Francis Whittington (GB) pulled up Easy Target at the same fence.

Two of the best-fancied combinations – New Zealand’s Andrew Nicholson (Nereo) and Britain’s William Fox-Pitt (Parklane Hawk) ran into unexpected trouble. Nereo left a leg coming out of the Gatehouse New Pond (Fence 14) and deposited Andrew out of the side door, while Parkland Hawk made a similar error at the third-last fence, the first of the Countrywide Hedges (Fence 27).

Leaders: 1, Paul Tapner (AUS) Kilronan (56.4); 2, Tim Price (NZ) Ringwood Sky Boy (61.6); 3, Pascal Leroy (FRA) Minos de Petra (62.5); 4, Oliver Townend (GB) Armada (62.7); 5, Sam Griffiths (AUS) Paulank Brockagh (63.9).