Ruth Edge on Two Thyme lead the Badminton Horse Trials after the dressage phase. © Kit Houghton/FEI
"There's always a lot of pressure on me here and I'm anxious not to let anyone down because it's a lot of work to get this horse here," she said. "But he was awesome today and belied his age. As he's older, I hadn't done much work with him this week and, as a result, he felt physically fresh."
Piggy French (GBR), second, had the distinction of scoring the only 10 of the competition, awarded by Ground Jury President Anne-Mette Binder for her halt on Jakata, and it was greeted by a deafening roar of approval from the packed stands.
"I can't stop crying," exclaimed French, who said she was shaking with excitement. "I'm so proud of the horse and I couldn't believe how much the crowd was behind me. I knew Jakata was capable of that sort of mark, but I was only realistically expecting something around 41."
The 21-year-old Laura Collett (GBR), who so impressed on day one, is still in third place, and there are five Britons in the top 10, but the home crowd had perhaps their biggest thrill as the final rider of the day, 55-year-old Mark Todd (NZL), a triple Badminton winner, swept into close contention with a brilliant performance on NZB Land Vision.
Todd, who acquired the grey gelding by Broadstone Landmark from Oliver Townend last year, anticipates that the 10-year-old should cope with today's Cross-country test, although it is his first attempt at this level.
"He got a bit uptight in his test, so I couldn't go for it as much as I would have liked, but it's his first time in a big atmosphere and he's still relatively inexperienced," commented the New Zealander.
A quarter of a million spectators are expected to attend at the Duke of Beaufort's estate in Gloucestershire today for the cross-country competition.
There was disappointment at the withdrawal of two key British riders, Kristina Cook, whose European Champion Miners Frolic has a swelling on the wither, and Pippa Funnell, who reported Redesigned to be not 100% sound, but a thrilling contest is assured with six nations represented in the top 10 and just 1.5 of a penalty covering the riders placed 12 to 20th.
Much interest surrounds the trio of Canadian riders who took the world by storm when winning team silver at the World Equestrian Games last year and who have been brought by their team trainer David O'Connor to contest Badminton for the first time.
Selena O'Hanlon (CAN), 30, is lying equal 10th on the Swedish-bred Colombo, a horse sent to her for rehabilitation. "It feels surreal to be here," she said.
"Colombo is 17, but he was the fastest across country at the World Games and was as sound as anything afterwards, which is a sure sign that we can keep going forward. The footing here is incredible, and once I get past fences 7-8, which are super upright and make my stomach turn, I shall be attacking."
• Aoife Clark recorded the best-ever dressage score for an Irish combination at the Badminton when she finished in the top eight with the Irish-bred Master Crusoe.
"It's the horse's first attempt at a four-star dressage test, he's only ten, and so I'm absolutely delighted. He's a real little showman, and he has delivered a personal best for me here today," Clark said.
"It's my first go with him at Badminton, so I hope he doesn't realise it's Badminton when we go out on the cross-country course tomorrow! I'll be out earlier with my other horse, 'Vaguely North', so that'll give me a feel for the course, I hope."
Now lying in eighth place overall on a penalty score of 42.2, Naas-born Clark is just under nine points adrift of Ruth Edge and Two Thyme.
Ireland has a total of eight riders competing at Badminton, and Elizabeth Power with Kilpatrick River and Camilla Speirs with the Irish-bred Portersize Just a Jiff are both in the top 30 after dressage.
Final dressage results:
1 Ruth Edge/Two Thyme (GBR) 33.3
2 Piggy French/Jakata (GBR) 36.0
3 Laura Collett/Rayef (GBR) 36.5
4 Mark Todd/NZB Land Vision (NZL) 36.8
5 Emily Baldwin/Drivetime (GBR) 39.7
6 Marina Köhncke/Calma Schelly (GER) 39.8
7 Oliver Townend/Ashdale Cruise Master (GBR) 40.5
8 Aoife Clark/master Crusoe (IRL) 42.2
9 Susanna Bordone/Carrera (ITA) 43.0
10 = Ingrid Klimke/Butts Abraxxas (GER) 43.3
10= Selena O'Hanlon/Colombo (CAN) 43.3