William Fox-Pitt resumed where he left off as the new FEI HSBC Classics Series began in France on Thursday.
British eventer Fox-Pitt clinched the 2011-12 Series title and its £90,000-plus top prize at Burghley last month, finishing high enough on the leaderboard to deny New Zealander Andrew Nicholson by a point.
It was the Dorset-based rider's third Classics triumph in its five-year existence, and he wasted little time impressing this time around as Pau's four-star event launched the series.
The competition rewards world eventing's most consistent performer across five annual four-star competitions, including Pau, Badminton and Burghley and Fox-Pitt made light work of being drawn first to go on Chilli Morning, gaining 44.7 penalties for top spot with a third of the 63-strong field having performed their dressage tests.
Stallion Chilli Morning, a new ride for Fox-Pitt this year, leads from Nicholson and Mr Cruise Control, with Fox-Pitt's fellow British Olympian Mary King (Kings Temptress) third.
All three contenders have second rides on Friday - Fox-Pitt on Bay My Hero, while Nicholson and King board their London 2012 horses Nereo and Imperial Cavalier, respectively.
But there are other major challengers lying in wait, including brilliant German Michael Jung - the only eventer to hold simultaneous Olympic, world and European crowns - plus New Zealand pair Mark Todd and Jonathan Paget.
In the supporting CIC two-star class, double Olympic champion Todd holds an overnight lead after dressage on Regent Lad.
Todd, part of New Zealand's bronze medal-winning team at London 2012, posted 40 penalties for a narrow advantage over Australia's Christopher Burton (Graf Liberty) and Jung (Fischerrocana FST).
The leading British contenders are Ruth Edge (Mister MacCondy) in fourth, and 11th-placed Laura Collett aboard Allora 3.