The Mars Badminton Horse Trials cross country course shook up the dressage results in a big way on Saturday.

The only rider from yesterday’s top three to finish in the top 15 was former world no. 1 Tim Price (NZL) who had a wonderful ride on Vitali, making all the direct routes look easy. The pair finished 10 seconds outside the time and stand at the top of the leaderboard at the end of the day on 31.7 penalties.

“The ground was a little bit more holding than it walked this morning, but he finished happy and appears to be recovering well, so we look forward to tomorrow,” said Price.

“He just gives me everything. You can tell with these horses that have campaigned at the five star level that they continue to improve, to understand themselves under the rigors of stamina and that’s what I loved about today. He was pushing at the start but in a fresh way and at the end he was pushing in a rhythmic, low but keen way and I just love that feeling.”

The New Zealander and his wife, Jonelle, were two of only eight riders to take the direct route at the Sustainability Bay, fences 17 and 18.

Fence 17 was an upright rail, followed a stride later by a narrow step down into the water. The horses ran through the water, then had a tight turn up the hill to the left and were confronted by a large tree trunk situated at a seemingly impossible angle, its enormous roots helping back the horses off the fence.

One of the biggest smiles of the day came from William Fox-Pitt, whose lovely mare, Grafennacht gave a peach of a ride. Making what was an exceedingly challenging course look like a hack in the park, the pair came home in the second fastest time of the day, to lie second, just 1.3 penalties behind Price.

“She gave me a great ride—I was optimistic that she would as she always does! I’ve never had a horse at this level who hasn’t had a single cross country fault. How lucky am I to have a mare like her in my swan song years?!”

Fox-Pitt’s first visit to Badminton was in 1989. Saturday could very well be his final appearance, according to the five-time Olympian.

Related: William Fox-Pitt Says 2024 Badminton Will Likely Be His Last

Ireland’s Lucy Latta lies in third on RCA Patron Saint. Born eight years after Fox-Pitt’s first visit to Badminton, Latta, a former pony and junior team medalist, made her Badminton debut this week and delivered.

“He wants to do it; he wasn’t phased by the crowds and was locked on to the course right from the start—he literally looks for the flags!”

An amateur rider who is a brand manager for White Claw canned drinks company, Latta has only one horse but she is bred for the job. Her grandfather, William Powell Harris, competed at Badminton and her cousin is the prolific Irish rider Elizabeth Power, who has helped Latta with her preparation.

“She was incredible,” enthused commentator and Badminton veteran Nick Gauntlett.  “No scary moments, it was just pure class. I’m gutted that she was one second outside the time but she just kept riding with maturity way beyond her years.”

Defending champion Ros Canter, leading after dressage, retired Izilot DHI after activating the MIM pin at the entry to the Badminton Lake. Izilot appeared overawed by the crowds and atmosphere so discretion appeared to be the better part of valour.

Thursday’s leader U25 champion Bubby Upton and Cola also fell victim of a MIM pin when jumping the Silver Birch rails at fence 21, but continued to complete the course, and are now lying in 18th place

Forty-one horses will advance to show jumping on Sunday.

Price has only a time fault in hand as the overnight leader. It’s a position he’s well familiar with. Price has led six CCI5*s going into the final day, reports EquiRatings, and went on to win four of them on four different horses (Burghley 2018, Luhmuhlen 2019, Pau 2021, Maryland 2022). Vitali is the first horse of Price’s poised to repeat the feat (EquiRatings).

“He just turns himself inside out when the going gets tough. I’ll remember that for tomorrow. Hopefully turning yourself inside out might get the job done,” said Price.

Tune in to Badminton TV Sunday to see if they can continue their form.