New Zealand’s Tim Price showed the crowds just why he is the world’s number one at CCI5* Burghley Horse Trials on Friday—producing a scintillating test with Vitali and the best test score in Burghley history. And CCI5* history.

That score: a phenomenal 18.7.

From the moment they entered the arena the pair showed their intent, scoring a 10 for their entry and halt. They scored another 10 for “harmony of athlete and horse.”

“His ride was amazing, it showed a great partnership,” commented Christian Steiner, president of the judges. “Judging today was a lot of fun and we were kept in a good mood by judging such good horses.”

“I’ve always known he had a test like that in him, but I can’t quite believe it,” said the 44-year-old rider. “He’s a quirky little horse and there’s always been one or two little things that have gone wrong at the big events—which have usually been my fault—but it felt like a good, workman-like test and when I was in there I was expecting a score in the mid-20s, so I’m delighted.”

Price broke with tradition and only has the one ride at Burghley this year but said it may play to his advantage with the 13-year-old bay Holsteiner.

“He is a complex character, so it probably suits him to have a bit more of my attention; not just riding, but being around him a bit more and thinking things through.”

Price’s record setting score puts him over five marks ahead of runner up Oliver Townend (GBR), who showed remarkable consistency by finishing third on Ballaghmor Class on 24.2 penalties, the exact same score as his second placed ride, Swallow Springs. He’s currently in 13th on his third mount, Tregider, on a score of 30.5.

All eyes are now on Saturday’s cross country phase.  

“I’m a big fan of Burghley; it’s the toughest five star in terms of terrain, and I have a lot of faith in the designer [Derek Di Grazia], knowing that he designs courses the way horses see things, so it should be fun. I have three very different horses to ride tomorrow but I’m looking forward to the challenge on all of them,” said Townend.

The Americans didn’t disappoint in dressage. All five finished in the top 10 and three within the top ten. Boyd Martin is the highest ranked Yank with Tsetserleg TSF, who finished sixth on 28.1.

“He’s a good old horse. We’ve had an up and down year this year, and I feel we’re just starting to pull it all together. To be in the mix with the best horses and riders is real happiness,” said Martin.

USA’s Grace Taylor and Game Changer are less than a penalty behind in sixth (28.9). Taylor was overcome with emotion during her post ride interview, and could only manage a “Thank you, Game Changer” before tears of joy got the better of her.

Countryman Will Faudree and Mama’s Magic Way are in ninth on 29.8.

Asked about Friday’s cross country course, Faudree said, “We dream all our lives to come to an event like this. There is a lot to do out there and it will come at us pretty quick, but we have done a lot together and I have confidence in our partnership so I just hope we answer the questions correctly.”

Find dressage results and cross country running times are here.