WILTSHIRE riders Sir Mark Todd, of New Zealand, and France’s Astier Nicholas put themselves in realistic medal contention as a difficult cross country course took its toll on the Olympic eventing competitors in Rio today.

Nicholas, who is based in Stockley near Calne, and Todd, whose base is at Badgerstown, near Swindon, lay third and fourth respectively heading into Tuesday’s final showjumping phase after a tough day of competition on a demanding course in Deodoro.

As overnight leader from the dressage, Great Britain’s Williiam Fox-Pitt, faded from contention after picking up significant time and jump penalties, 27-year-old Nicholas – who counts both Fox-Pitt and Todd among his heroes - got home unscathed in a superb clear round on Piaf De B’neville to lie under five penalties behind new leader, Australia’s Christopher Burton, on Santano II.

Reigning Olympic champion Michael Jung, of Germany, was second, with Todd a further four penalties behind Nicholas on Leonidas II.

On a brutal day that saw nearly 20 horse and rider combinations withdraw or be eliminated, there was disappointment for Great Britain, who include Lower Stanton St Quintin rider Kitty King and Ceylor LAN in their ranks, as Fox-Pitt, Gemma Tattersall and Pippa Funnell all picked up sizeable penalties.

King, the last British rider out, did likewise to leave herself in 33rd individually and the team languishing in eighth in the team competition, in which Australia lead from Todd's New Zealand and Nicholas' France.

She said: "He (Ceylor LAN) jumped brilliantly everywhere, he jumped up the step (fence 11) and I tried to get there on the three (strides) but I didn't quite make it.

"There's a lot of positives to take out of it, and he still did a great job. He jumped really well in the warm-up and felt fantastic and he felt brilliant over the first few (fences); as soon as he jumped the first two I thought we're going to have a good ride and we did."

"Unfortunately I've never dropped my whip before and today was the day I dropped my whip, which was not very helpful, and it becomes a little harder. There were a couple of places where I could have done with the whip just to give him a little bit of a helping hand."

Marlborough-based New Zealander Tim Price, on Ringwood Sky Boy, suffered a slip during their run that saw them eliminated from the competition, but his wife Jonelle and Faerie Dynamo made it round and lie 13th heading into the final day.

Two places further back is Little Cheverell-based Canadian rider Rebecca Howard, on Riddle Master, but Baydon-based Brazilian Marcio Jorge and Lissy Mac Wayer were eliminated.