Ben Maher and Nick Skelton sealed their places in the individual jumping final with smooth rounds at the Olympic Equestrian Centre.
Riding 13-year old bay stallion Tic Tac, Maher enjoyed his best round of the competition so far, riding clear for the first time but picking up one time penalty to finish on nine faults for his three rounds of qualification.
The 33-year old from Bishop’s Stortford , who only teamed up with Tic Tac in January this year, finished ninth in the individual event at London 2012, picking up a jump penalty in each of his rounds in the final.
But Maher, who was part of the gold medal-winning team jumping quartet four years ago, insisted the partnership would be one to watch with scores reset for Friday’s final.
“I feel my horse is jumping better with every day that goes on,” said Maher. “If he keeps progressing with a day off tomorrow, then I’ll be quietly confident on Friday.
“I just suffered the time fault there for the first three or four jumps but in the end I got the job done and we start on zero on Friday.
“It was a tough day yesterday. You wouldn’t have wanted to be in our apartment last night with us five [after missing out on qualification for the team final round].
“But I had an early night, studied a few videos from yesterday and rode one or two fences slightly different this morning. That’s sport – we have to come out and keep pushing and the deal today was to make the cut.”
Skelton also made the individual final for the fourth consecutive Games, having finished fifth on 13-year old bay stallion Big Star in London four years ago.
The combination have returned for another shot at the title in Rio, securing their progress on 13 faults after one jump penalty and one time penalty in their third round.
“I’m happy with that – he jumped great,” said Skelton, who is competing at a British record seventh Olympic Games. “Again he was a bit unlucky and touched the wrong one.
“He left the floor well and he just touched it. He’s due for a change of luck and fingers crossed it will come on Friday. We all start equal again in the final which is very different and we’ll see what happens.”
Michael Whitaker and Cassionato were forced to withdraw from the third qualification round after Cassionato showed colic symptoms
Equestrian Team Leader Dan Hughes said: "Cassionato was comfortable overnight and continues to improve. He is expected to leave the clinic later this afternoon.
“The veterinary care at the equestrian venue has been excellent and we would like to extend our thanks to the team at Deodoro."