By Sarah Edmonds
LONDON (Reuters) - There was a six-way tie going into the second round of the individual show jumping final, with stalwarts like Britain's Nick Skelton among the leaders, along with a few surprises.
The top 20 horse-rider combinations go through to the second round later on Wednesday where they will face a reconfigured, and probably more challenging, course.
"He's fresh," Skelton said of horse Big Star after going clear. "We'll see what they're going to build (for the second-round course) and what happens."
Wednesday's history-themed course certainly proved difficult enough, given that only six riders in a field of 37 finished with neither jumping nor time faults.
Another four were clear round the obstacles, but notched a fault for taking longer than the allowed time.
Second-round results are added to the first to determine the winners. Any riders tied for medal positions will jump off over a shorter, more technically demanding course.
The four-metre water jump and a three-fence combination inspired by maritime navigation proved the undoing of many.
The first of the six clears came early and unexpectedly - Irish rider Cian O'Connor, who only made the cut for the individual event after a Swedish rider withdrew.
The first-round field included all riders who finished in 35th position or above after an individual qualifier and two rounds of team jumping. All started on a clean slate.
Fans of Swiss rider Steve Guerdat held up a huge banner that read "hop Steve". And hop he did, perfectly over every fence.
Scott Brash, the youngest in a British team that captured its first gold in 60 years on Monday, jumped a beautiful clear.
Brash, who says he thrives on pressure, got the ride on Hello Sanctus when show jumping owners Lord and Lady Harris and Lady Kirkham bought it for him just before the Olympic deadline.
Germany's Marcus Ehning on Plot Blue and France's Olivier Guillon riding Lord de Theize also jumped flawless rounds.
All three British riders made it through to the second.
Canadian Ian Millar, riding in a record 10th Olympics, had one down for a four-fault total, to stand in joint 11th.
Saudi Arabia's Kamal Bahamdan, part of the team that took team bronze earlier this week, jumped clear over the obstacles and only notched up a single time fault to sit in joint 7th.
A big Saudi contingent in the stands whistled and cheered him on and roared as Prince Abdullah al Saud, grandson of the Saudi king, finished with a respectable eight faults.
The Saudi royal did not make the cut for the second round.
Riders earn faults by knocking down rails, splashing in water jumps or refusing to jump. Two refusals mean elimination.
(Editing by Matt Falloon)