William Fox-Pitt was pleased with his day's work at the Pau four-star event in France.
Fox-Pitt, last year's winner, proved an assured pathfinder on the stallion Chilli Morning, on which he has risen seven places to sixth. He also had a great round on the nine-year-old Bay My Hero, now in fifth.
"I've had quite an interrupted season with Chilli, but he is accepting me more now. He gave me a lovely ride," Fox-Pitt said.
"And with Bay My Hero it's a bit like riding my old pony. He knows where to go and is clever and cat-like, despite the fact that the ground was more slippery by the time I went on him."
Oliver Townend was eliminated when ODT Sonas Rovatio missed the bank out of the water and fell at 6d, while Mary King fell, but was uninjured.
New Zealand's Jonathan Paget will take a slender lead into the showjumping phase.
Germany's Olympic champion Michael Jung also produced an equally classy display on Leopin FST.
And Paget's compatriot Andrew Nicholson, who steered two horses round clear and inside the cross-country optimum time, is third on Nereo.
But dressage leaders Christopher Burton and Underdiscussion had a run-out at the narrow fence four and later retired after a further stop at the third water complex.