A thrilling finale is guaranteed to the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event (USA) presented by Bridgestone, the third leg of the HSBC FEI Classics™, following a thrilling Cross Country day which has left the top three riders within a Jumping fence of each other. William Fox-Pitt (GBR) and Parklane Hawk have moved up a place and now have a slender advantage over Dressage leaders Alison Springer (USA) and Arthur, who clocked 3.2 time penalties across the country, and New Zealander Jonathan Paget who is lying third on Clifton Promise.
Fox-Pitt, who won the event in 2010 on Cool Mountain, put in an exhibition round to finish seven seconds inside the optimum time of 11 minutes 14 seconds. “I was aware the course was causing problems, but you have to believe that you’re riding a good horse with good form,” he said afterwards. “Parklane Hawk gave me some ride. He is a Thoroughbred [by Danehill] and has raced in New Zealand, so I had an advantage. I was down on time to begin with, but being 15 seconds down on a horse like that is irrelevant and I knew I could creep back up again. He can be quite feisty and one or two of our turns were a bit untidy, but I’m being fussy – he was damn good!”
Fox-Pitt, the current leader of both the HSBC FEI Classics™ and the HSBC Rankings, is now tantalisingly close to achieving two consecutive wins in the Rolex Grand Slam, worth $350,000 to the rider who can capture Burghley, Kentucky and Badminton (next weekend) on a roll. However, he has no margin for error over Springer, who rode an inspired Cross Country round on the 13-year-old Arthur, a beautiful-looking chestnut horse which has had mixed fortunes at CCI4* level.
“I’ve learned to read my horse and make decisions,” said an elated Springer afterwards. “He’s a gift to ride because it’s all so within his ability. We’ve been together a long time. I love this horse and have looked after him, and thank goodness, because we’ve got to get it right some time!”
Fox-Pitt has even more to worry about from Paget, who reveals that Clifton Promise has only had four rails down in his entire CCI4* career. “I figure he’s due to go clear again,” promises Paget. “He’s a real warrior.”
Former Kentucky winner David O’Connor (USA), who will take on training the American team after the Olympics, said he felt the Cross Country course was “more intense this year – it’s been an educational day.” Certainly, Course Designer Derek di Grazia (USA) had increased the emphasis on maintaining a route through the complexes, and riders soon found that when things didn’t go to plan the lines could be unforgiving.
The day got off to a nervous start when the first three riders on course failed to finish. Pathfinder Andrew Nicholson (NZL) retired Calico Joe after two refusals and a broken frangible pin at the rail into the coffin (fence 9a), the fence riders were most anxious about. Karen O’Connor (USA) suffered a ducking when she was unseated from Veronica at the narrow fence in the first water complex, and Becky Holder (USA) parted company with the veteran Courageous Comet when he swerved at the corner after the Normandy Bank.
Fox-Pitt is the only Briton left in the competition after California-based James Alliston retired Jumbo’s Jake with two run-outs and had a fall with Parker. Lucy Wiegersma, eighth after Dressage, had a rider fall when Granntevka Prince twisted over the right-hand corner fence after the Normandy Bank. Oliver Townend retired the mare Pepper Anne after two refusals at the double of hedges and ditches at fence 27.
Andrew Hoy (AUS), who had already incurred 21 penalties for knocking the frangible pin at 9, ran into trouble at 27 when Rutherglen jumped down into the ditch at the first hedge and stopped.
Clark Montgomery (USA), third after Dressage on Loughan Glen, also hit the frangible pin at 9, and was later eliminated. There were 32 finishers from the 54 Cross Country starters with 21 clear rounds, seven of which were inside the optimum time.
Karen O’Connor (USA) cemented her relationship with new ride Mr Medicott and is now in fifth place on an equal score with Boyd Martin (USA) on his second ride Otis Barbotiere. “He’s an experienced horse and he stays formatted in his body, which is nice to ride,” said O’Connor of the chestnut gelding which was originally produced in England by Nigel Taylor before winning an Olympic gold medal in 2008 at eight years old with Frank Ostholt (GER). “He’s so scopey and big in his stride that you never have a moment’s worry about some of his decisions when he takes strides out.”
O’Connor revealed that she has been having help with stadium jumping from her pupil Marilyn Little-Meredith (USA), who only switched to competing in Eventing from Jumping two years ago. “So I’m hoping for a better result tomorrow,” said O’Connor.
The versatile Little-Meredith had a dream first CCI4*. She posted the first clear of the day, in relaxed style, for just 4.4 time penalties on RF Rovano Rex, 10th, and is also lying seventh on RF Demeter. Her two clear rounds put her in the same bracket as her far more experienced compatriots Phillip Dutton (USA), in 11th and 12th on Mighty Nice and Fernhill Eagle, and Boyd Martin (USA), who is also eighth on Remington XXV. As a result, Little-Meredith is now in line to win the coveted HSBC Training Bursary for the best CCI4* debut, worth $1,000.
The Jumping starts at 18.30 hours CEST. Follow the results on www.rk3de.org and the action live on FEI TV.
Results (after Cross Country)
1 William Fox-Pitt/Parklane Hawk (GBR) 41.3 + 0 = 41.3
2 Alison Springer/Arthur (USA) 39.8 + 3.2 = 43.6
3 Jonathan Paget/Clifton Promise (NZL) 44.8 + 0 = 44.8
4 Boyd Martin/Otis Barbotiere (USA) 51.0 = 0 = 51.0
5 Karen O’ Connor/Mr Medicott (USA) 44.2 + 6.8 = 51.0
6 William Coleman/Twizzel (USA) 51.3 + 0 = 51.3
7 Marilyn Little-Meredith/RF Demeter (USA) 49.0 + 2.8 = 51.8
8 Boyd Martin/Remington XXV (USA) 45.3 + 7.6 = 52.9
9 Andrew Nicholson/Qwanza (NZL) 55.8 + 0 = 55.8
10 Marilyn Little-Meredith/RF Rovano Rex (USA) 53.7 + 4.4 = 58.1
HSBC’s Training Bursary
At the centre of HSBC’s sponsorship is a commitment to the development of Eventing at every level. As part of their support of the HSBC FEI Classics™, HSBC has introduced a Training Bursary. This is a unique award which is presented to the highest placed rider ever to have completed a 4* event prior to 1st January 2011. The winning rider receives a training voucher to the value of $1,000, which is spent on sessions with a trainer of the athlete’s choice approved by FEI and National Federation. Further information can be found here: http://www.fei.org/hsbc/hsbc-training-bursary
HSBC FEI Classics™ 2012 Leaderboard (after 2 out of 6 events):
1 William Fox-Pitt (GBR) 15
2 Stuart Tinney (AUS) 15
3 Andrew Nicholson (NZL) 12
4 Sonja Johnson (AUS) 12
5 Emma Mason (AUS) 10
6 Mary King (GBR) 8
7 Natalie Blundell (AUS) 8
8 Nicolas Touzaint (FRA) 6
9 Shane Rose (AUS) 6
10 Clayton Fredericks (AUS) 6
Full leaderboard can be viewed here.
Photo caption: William Fox-Pitt (GBR) and Parklane Hawk lead after thrilling Cross Country day at HSBC FEI Classics™ in Kentucky. Image: Amy Dragoo/FEI.