Yasmin Ingham and Banzai du Loir are on course to win the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials CCI4*-L for the second time in three runnings after a superb cross-country performance this afternoon.

The world champions needed a clear round to qualify for next year’s Olympic Games in Paris at which they will be one of the favourites for the gold medal.

“It was really enjoyable,” said Yasmin, who finished exactly on the optimum time of 10 minutes 20 seconds. “Banzai was right on his lines and responded to me. I just wanted to have a nice time. This is such a beautiful place – the owners love it here and we just wanted to be able to enjoy the horse and have a positive experience.”

By the time Yasmin went across country halfway through day, the leaderboard had changed considerably. Gemma Stevens, who was lying third after dressage on Jalapeno ll, had a fall at the penultimate fence, Pippa Funnell, lying sixth on Billy Walk On, retired after a refusal in the water and the Olympic champion Julia Krajewski tipped off Ero de Cantraie, also at a water complex.

Harry Meade, who was the second rider on the course, made it look easy and will move up the order after finishing inside the optimum time on both Et Hop Du Matz and the mare Annaghmore Valoner. Harry was full of praise for David Evans’s cross-country track, which he described as an attacking course and a good stepping stone for five-star level. He also credited the team for the work done to produce perfect footing.

The excitement will be ratcheted up a notch at around 4pm this afternoon when the new world number one in Eventing Ros Canter (Izilot DHI), Laura Collett (Calahari), Piggy March (Halo) and Tom McEwen (Brookfield Quality) perform their cross-country rounds.

Tom McEwen, who led the dressage in the concurrent CCI4*-S, had an unfortunate showjumping round with MHS Brown Jack and was eliminated under the new rule of having too many fences down. Oliver Townend now heads this competition with Cooley Rosalent.