WILTSHIRE’S contingent of eventers will head into the final day of Badminton Horse Trials occupying three of the top five positions.

Marlborough-based Andrew Nicholson, on Nereo, goes into tomorrow’s show jumping stage within a fence of clinching a title that has eluded him in his illustrious career.

The New Zealand rider, who lost three studs around the course, will have to overcome two German power houses in the form of first-placed Ingrid Klimke, who is 0.8 penalty points ahead on a score of 39.6, and reigning champion Michael Jung.

“I thought, walking it, it was a very good course,” he said.

“The kind of course where you had to sit on your backside and work. We’ve had quite a lot of courses at big events where experienced riders with experienced horses could glide around two-thirds of the course.

“Walking this one, it looked like, from the second fence, onwards, you had to work and be quite accurate with your distances.

“I think it’s a good thing when the riders are concentrating, and I felt like my horses were concentrating on every fence.”

Meanwhile, fellow Kiwi and Marlborough-based rider Tim Price is just one place behind Nicholson, on a score of 48.2 and was relieved to put a difficult season last year behind him on Xavier Faer.

“I’ve just been fed up with a few lacklustre performances lately and for whatever reason, I think it’s down to bad luck here and there,” he explained.

“This horse has got this written all over him but the only way to achieve it was to set out like you are going to do it or you won’t make it up.

“I decided to do that rather than the usual recipe, which it to start out, find your rhythm, let them into your course.

“Today, the ground was so good and I believe in the horse so much that I set out as if I intended to go within the time and he went better and better as he went.”

Price, who is 8.6 points adrift of Klimke after lifting himself up from 34th place after the dressage stage with only one of two penalty-free rounds on a difficult cross-country day, is now confident heading into the final day of competition.

“He’s really fit and he is already recovering well, he’ll be good as gold tomorrow,” he added.

“It’s definitely exciting going into the show jumping in this position, it’s why we do it.”

Wanborough’s Sir Mark Todd lies fifth with NZB Campino on a score of 50.4, with his second ride Leonidas II in ninth, and was over the moon with the performance of his 19-year-old gelding’s performance.

“He was magic, he was so cool,” he said.

“It’s very hard to have a foot-perfect round around here but he was as cool as you can be.

“He is not the fastest thing but he tried so hard and I’m really delighted.”

Elsewhere, Stockley-based Astier Nicholas sits in 13th place on Piaf De B’Neville, having picked up 21.1 penalty points, while Nicholson’s second horse, Qwanza, lies 15th.

Baydon-based Marcio Jorge is 23rd in his first performance at four star level on Lissy Mac Wayer, while Great Somerford’s Beanie Sturgis and Lebowski are 29th.

Eric Winter’s first four-star course design proved a testing one, with 16 horses retiring from the competition, including -based Jesse Campbell, and 16 combinations were eliminated, including Highworth’s Paul Tapner and Purton Stoke’s Danielle Dunn at her first Badminton.