OLIVER Townend's quest for the richest prize in eventing is set for a thrilling conclusion at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials on Sunday.

Shropshire-based Townend lies second after a pulsating day of cross-country action, tied on 28.0 penalties with New Zealander Jonelle Price, who is based just outside Marlborough.

Price holds top spot because she was closer to the optimum cross-country time, collecting just 0.4 time penalties, compared with Townend's 7.2 aboard Ballaghmor Class, with Townend's British colleague Ros Canter holding third on Allstar B.

Reigning Olympic champion Michael Jung is fourth on La Biosthetique Sam FBW, with less than a showjumping fence down separating the top four riders.

If Townend wins, he will land the £255,000 Rolex Grand Slam, which is awarded to any rider who wins consecutive Burghley, Kentucky and Badminton crowns.

But it has only been done twice before - by Jung in 2016 and Britain's Pippa Funnell 15 years ago - although 35-year-old Townend already has Burghley and Kentucky in the bag, and he is now also chasing Badminton's £100,000 top prize.

When Kentucky prize money from last weekend is added, he could leave for home in Shropshire on Sunday with an eight-day windfall approaching £500,000, given that his second ride Cooley SRS is fifth overnight at Badminton.

Townend said: "Two in the top five at Badminton is not too bad! I am very proud of the horses.

"It (cross-country going) was fairly horrible to ride. It was like riding in a plough. Tomorrow will be like going showjumping after the Grand National - it's a tough job."

Price, who gave birth to a son last summer and is bidding to become Badminton's first female winner since Australian Lucinda Fredericks in 2007, added: "In fairness, the one time fault she collected was my fault.

"She is some mare, and makes me look good. When I first got her, I didn't think she had enough jumping ability, but now she is like my best friend."

Canter, Townend's team-mate when Great Britain won European team gold in Poland last September, collected 6.4 time penalties on a day when no combination jumped clear inside the optimum time of 11 minutes, 49 seconds.

"He really had to dig deep today," Canter said. "In a way, he's had an easy career up to this stage, and today was probably the first time he has had to dig really deep.

"What a star! I could not be prouder of him. He was so focused today."

While the top three finishers took centre-stage, German star Jung lurks ominously in fourth place as he chases a second Badminton title in three years.

"It was a really good round," he said. "The ground made it much more difficult, but he handled it really well.

"He is such a strong horse, and we were well prepared. In the end, I asked him to go a bit faster and he still tried and galloped forward, which was really nice to feel."

Foxham's Georgie Spence and Halltown Haley, defending champions Andrew Nicholson, based outdie Marlborough, and Nereo, plus Price's husband Tom and Ringwood Sky Boy, plus Badgerstown-based New Zealander Sir Mark Todd and Leonidas all went clear on cross country.

Hullavington's Alicia Hawker had one refusal but completed.