William Fox-Pitt (GBR) has made the best possible start to the 2010 HSBC FEI Classics™ season and is poised to add the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event (USA) to his many other 4-star trophies. A perennial visit to Kentucky, he leads the Dressage phase on the rising star Cool Mountain, a 10-year-old gelding by Primitive Rising and already a 3-star winner (at Blair Castle last year).
However, Fox-Pitt, who won the inaugural HSBC FEI Classics™ in 2008, has snapping at his heels the senior US rider here, Karen O’Connor on the 10-year-old Irish Thoroughbred Mandiba, who has clearly matured since he was sprung into the frontline as a youngster at the 2008 Olympics. O’Connor is in joint second place with Allison Springer (USA) on the handsome Arthur, one of the smartest Dressage horses in the business.
“He’s more confirmed in his flatwork than he’s ever been, for sure, so I can ride down the centreline with more confidence than ever before,” said O’Connor, an Olympic team silver medallist in 1996. “Plus, he’s such an elegant horse and has such try in him, so I was just over the moon.”
Kimberly Severson, the 2004 Olympic silver medallist, is in close contention, in 4th place on Tipperary Liadhnan, ahead of 2008 Olympian Becky Holder on the consistent grey Courageous Comet.
Phillip Dutton (USA) probably the most prolifically successful rider in the States, has three horses in the top 10: The Foreman, 7th, Woodburn, who has been withdrawn from the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials due to the volcanic ash crisis, in 8th and Waterfront in 10th.
The organisers took pity on Oliver Townend (GBR) after his marathon 55-hour journey to Kentucky and rescheduled his first horse, ODT Master Rose, to the second day of Dressage. Bidding to be only the second rider to achieve the Rolex Grand Slam, he is lying 6th on new ride Ashdale Cruise Master and 9th on ODT Master Rose.
Townend, who won the 2009 HSBC FEI Classics™, travelled from his home in Shropshire by several trains to Paris, where he found there was a train strike. Undaunted – and unable to speak any French – he struck a bargain with a taxi driver to take him on a 14-hour drive to Madrid, where he met up with William Fox-Pitt and Ireland’s Geoff Curran and flew on to Miami.
“My entire career has been building up to this and I wasn’t going to let it slip away just because of a volcano in Iceland!” said Townend, who was 8th at Kentucky last year on Carousel Quest. “I’m going to stay positive and see how I get on. It’s all a bit of a chance, but they’re good horses.
“Ashdale Cruise Master is potentially the best Cross Country horse I’ve ever had, but there’s still some work to do on the Dressage.”
There had to be a hasty switch round of Ground Jury at Kentucky, due to the lack of flights from Europe. Marilyn Payne (USA) has replaced Anne-Mette Binder (DEN) and Christian Landolt (SUI) has taken over from Sue Baxter (GBR), both of them joining Ulrich Schmiz (USA). Technical Delegate Tom Ryckewaert (BEL) was also delayed – Gretchen Butts (USA) was holding the fort until he arrived, and Derek di Grazia (USA) was performing Course Designer duties until Mike Etherington-Smith (GBR) could arrive.
There are 3 former Kentucky winners in the field, all US: Karen O’Connor (1999, Prince Panache), Kim Severson (2002, 2004, 2005, Winsome Adante) and Phillip Dutton (2008, Connaught)
William Fox-Pitt, 41, a member of the British team since 1993, won the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials in 2004 and has won the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials 5 times
52 horses go through to the Cross Country
1 withdrawal (Phillip Dutton on Kheops du Quesnay)
The Rolex Grand Slam (worth $350’000 to the winner) is for the rider who can win Kentucky, Badminton and Burghley consecutively; it has only been won once before, by Pippa Funnell (GBR) in 2003. Last year, Oliver Townend won Badminton and Burghley
- 1 William Fox-Pitt/Cool Mountain (GBR) 42.8
- 2= Karen O’Connor/Mandiba (USA) 43.7
- 2= Allison Springer/Arthur (USA) 43.7
- 4 Kim Severson/Tipperary Liadhnan (USA) 44.8
- 5 Becky Holder/Courageous Comet (USA) 45.2
- 6 Oliver Townend/Ashdale Cruise Master (GBR) 46.2
- 7 Phillip Dutton/The Foreman (USA) 47.2
- 8 Phillip Dutton/Woodburn (USA) 47.7
- 9 Oliver Townend/ODT Master Rose 49.8
- 10 Phillip Dutton/Waterfront (USA) 51.0
HSBC FEI Classics™ Calendar of Events in 2010
1. 21-25 April –Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event (USA)
2. 30 April - 3 May – Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (GBR)
3. 17-20 June – Luhmühlen CCI**** presented by E.ON Avacon (GER)
4. 2-5 September – Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (GBR)
5.4-7 November - Les Etoiles de Pau (FRA)
HSBC will contribute US$ 1million to the series over three years. Prize-money is awarded, as follows, to the top five riders on the leaderboard after the fifth and final event:
WINNERS OF THE 2009 SEASON
1. Oliver Townend (GBR) - US$ 150,000 (Series champion);
2. Dirk Schrade (GER) - US$ 75,000;
3. Andreas Dibowski - (GER) US$ 50,000;
4. William Fox-Pitt (GBR) - US$ 33,000;
5. Sam Griffiths (AUS) - US$ 25,000
Photo caption: Karen O’Connor (USA), aboard Mandiba, is joint second after the Dressage phase of the first leg of the HSBC FEI Classics™ at Lexington, KY (USA). (c) Amy Dragoo/FEI.