World Equestrian Games: William Fox-Pitt leads after cross-country

Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014

Venue: Caen, France Dates: 25 August-7 September

Coverage: Watch live on BBC Two, Red Button, online, tablets, mobiles and the BBC Sport app (times listed below)

British eventer William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning conquered a tricky cross-country course to take command at the World Equestrian Games  in Normandy.

World number one Fox-Pitt narrowly leads Germany's Sandra Auffarth while GB are second in the team event after a German penalty was wiped out.

However, Wild Lone, ridden by Fox-Pitt's team-mate Harry Meade, collapsed and died after Saturday's competition.

Meade rode Wild Lone to 24th place on his World Equestrian Games debut.

The 31-year-old, son of three-time Olympic champion Richard Meade, had been completing his comeback having shattered both elbows in a fall last year.

Meade's horse, a 13-year-old gelding, collapsed shortly after completing a clear round on a cross-country course many competitors found intensely challenging.

"I felt that played no part whatsoever in what happened to Wilde Lone," said an emotional Meade in reference to the course design and conditions.

"He was so well within himself that I could have asked for a little bit more. He felt extremely comfortable.

"I'm obviously devastated about what's happened and I wanted to state I thought the course was a very good test, and I would be sad if anybody was to draw any incorrect conclusions."

Rain earlier in the week had softened the 6km (3.7-mile) course at Haras du Pin, a French national stud one hour south of Caen.

Organisers consequently adjusted it ahead of Saturday's cross-country, including the removal of two fences.

BBC coverage times (all times BST)

Sat 30 August: 08:55-15:25 Red Button

Sun 31 August: 13:25-16:20 Red Button and 16:00-18:00 BBC Two

Thu 4 September: 14:25-17:15 Red Button

Fri 5 September: 14:35-16:45 BBC Two

Sat 6 September: 12:20-16:00 Red Button

Sun 7 September: 13:55-16:20 Red Button and 15:00-18:00 BBC Two (also the Burghley Horse Trials, alongside World Equestrian Games highlights).

However, many riders still failed to complete the course and were eliminated entirely, New Zealand duo Mark Todd and Jock Paget among them.

Former world champion Zara Phillips, the first Briton out onto the course aboard High Kingdom, set the tone for her team with a clear ride and 14.4 time penalties on a day when nobody rode inside the designated optimum time.

"It was tough out there but High Kingdom was a total star," said Phillips, 33, who won individual gold in 2006 and now lies 15th this year.

"He was in control and I just steered."

Nicola Wilson and Annie Clover (12th) and Tina Cook with De Novo News (14th) ensured Britain finished the day with four riders inside the top 15. Oliver Townend and Black Tie were the only British combination not to finish.

Zara Phillips

Zara Phillips rode clear in Caen aboard High Kingdom

Germany's Michael Jung - the individual champion in Lexington, Kentucky at the last World Equestrian Games - produced a superb outing on his second-string ride, Fischerrocana FST, to lie third behind Fox-Pitt and Auffarth.

Auffarth, Jung and Ingrid Klimke combined for a team score of 177.9, handing Germany the lead when Klimke had 20 penalty points eradicated by officials.

Britain's Fox-Pitt, Cook and Phillips, with 186.8, are three fences behind the Germans heading into Sunday's jumping finale in Caen.

Both the US and New Zealand dropped out of the team competition as a total of 24 riders either retired or were eliminated.

Four riders are within four penalties of Fox-Pitt's cumulative 50.3, meaning just one fence down for the Briton on Sunday will open up an exceptionally close contest.

"He was strong. He's a feisty and opinionated horse," said Fox-Pitt after recording the day's fifth-fastest round, adding to their second-place performance in the opening dressage phase.

"He's never been asked these questions before or over such a demanding track and ground, but he was amazing."

With the top six teams in Caen guaranteed qualification for Rio 2016, Britain are not only in the medal hunt but also all but certain to have booked their places at the next Olympic Games by the end of Sunday's action.