As they go into today's cross-country, the Scot holds a 1.4 point lead over Robert Lemieux, riding for Canada on Just an Ace, with the joint overnight leaders, David O'Connor (United States) on Custom Made and Linda Algotsson (Sweden) on Lafayett, in equal third.
Stanwick Ghost, the attractive grey who was Stark's mount in last year's Olympics, produced a lovely soft, active and obedient test, with a nice rounded outline and flowing rhythm.
Though on exemplary behaviour in the arena, Stanwick Ghost had been bursting with excitement on Thursday. "He was still very wild this morning, so I rode him for an hour and a half and then gave him another 20 minutes before his test," Stark said.
Until the Scot went ahead, Lemieux had held the lead from early afternoon on 15-year-old Just an Ace, who has competed here on three occasions with New Zealand's Mark Todd, who collected one fourth and two fifth prizes with him. Todd's first ride on Just an Ace was in 1991, shortly after Lemieux had broken his collar-bone.
The first cross-country fence that the New Zealander took on the horse was the first obstacle on the Badminton course, which they jumped clear to finish fifth. Just an Ace has swapped stables several times since but returned to Lemieux last autumn.
Mary King was seventh on Star Appeal, with whom she won at Burghley last year. "He's a great big solid Irish horse and it's difficult to turn him into a ballerina," King said. "I was hoping to be in the top 10 after the dressage, so we've exceeded expectations."
MITSUBISHI MOTORS BADMINTON HORSE TRIALS (Standings after dressage phase): 1 Stanwick Ghost (I Stark, GB) 46.2 penalties; 2 Just an Ace (R Lemieux, Can) 47.6; 3= Lafayett (L Algotsson, Swe) and Custom Made (D O'Connor, US) 48.6; 5 Archie Brown (P Muir, GB) 49.4; 6 Headley Bravo (D Dick, GB) 49.6.Reuse content