Paget in sight of biggest prize
Jonathan Paget is on course for eventing's richest prize after he led a superb display of New Zealand domination at the Burghley Horse Trials.
Paget, this year's Mitsubishi Motors Badminton champion, leads aboard Clifton Promise on a score of 37.1 penalties and lies second with Clifton Lush heading into the showjumping finale on Sunday.
His fellow New Zealander, world number one Andrew Nicholson, has three horses in the top eight including third-placed Burghley title holder Avebury, while London 2012 team members Jonelle Richards and Mark Todd lie sixth and 10th, respectively.
The British challenge rests solely with six-time Burghley winner William Fox-Pitt, who is fourth on Parklane Hawk, 5.2 penalties behind Paget's score.
Paget, a 29-year-old former bricklayer, is now in pursuit of three remarkable eventing feats.
If he wins, then he will become the first rider to land Badminton and Burghley titles in the same season on the same horse for 24 years after Britain's Ginny Leng achieved it with Master Craftsman.
And no-one since Fox-Pitt in 2008 has finished first and second at one of Britain's two premier four-star events.
More significantly, though, a Burghley triumph would leave him needing victory at Kentucky next spring to complete eventing's £225,000 Rolex Grand Slam.
The Grand Slam is awarded for any rider that wins consecutive Badminton, Burghley and Kentucky competitions, and it has only been achieved once before, by Britain's Pippa Funnell.
It proved an eventful day for Paget, who saw both his horses briefly stopped on course for vet checks when blood was spotted. Clifton Lush banged its nose with its knee at an early fence, and Clifton Promise bit its tongue.
"It was a little bit weird," he said.
"It worked in my favour on the first horse (Clifton Lush), because it gave him a little break on the course, but I found it hard to get Promise's attention again. Luckily, he is a very good horse.
"I thought the course was hard work, but I was on two exceptional horses.
"Mark (course designer Mark Phillips) built a very challenging course, and if you were to have any chance of going inside the time then you had to go really fast. And when you go fast, you are very vulnerable."
Paget also paid tribute to Nicholson, adding: "He is a hero of mine. He has helped me a lot, and without him I would not be here.
"I stayed with him for five or six weeks in 2009, and he was very generous with his teaching. He is always there if you ask him for advice.
"We will be trying to beat each other tomorrow, but I have the utmost respect for him."
Only three combinations from 62 starters - Paget with Clifton Lush, plus Nicholson's rides Avebury and Calico Joe - jumped clear inside the optimum time of 11 minutes 24 seconds, although Fox-Pitt collected just 0.8 time penalties.
Those two seconds over, though, made a difference between second and fourth place for the British star, who said: "I was very annoyed to get those time faults. But who knows tomorrow? It is certainly not over yet."
There were 10 eliminations - including British fallers Piggy French, Tom McEwen and Jodie Amos - but no rider or horse injuries, while 2009 Burghley winner Oliver Townend saw his hopes aboard Armada dashed by a run-out at the Dairy Farm complex, plus 10.4 time faults that left him lying 26th.
"He didn't quite clock what I was expecting him to do - it was as simple as that," Townend said.
"There are no excuses. It is very frustrating because he is a machine at cross-country."
London 2012 team silver medallist Nicola Wilson is the only other top 10 British rider - she holds ninth on Opposition Buzz - with Funnell (Redesigned) 13th, Tina Cook (De Novo News) 14th and Sarah Cohen (Treason) 20th.