William Fox-Pitt (GBR) looks to have taken an unassailable lead in the HSBC FEI ClassicsTM rankings, after emerging “man of the match” at a rain-soaked cross-country day at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials in Lincolnshire, England.
He stands to collect several HSBC points towards securing the US$150,000 prize cheque if he maintains his first and third places after the show jumping phase at Burghley.
Closest rival, Phillip Dutton, is lying second at Burghley, but as yet has no ride for the finale, Les Etoiles de Pau, where Fox-Pitt is scheduled to ride Macchiato, although he joked, “I might have to go out and buy one!”
Fox-Pitt has more than two fences in hand to win a fifth Burghley title, thus equalling the record of Mark Todd and Ginny Elliot, after producing a superb performance on the 16-year-old Arab cross Thoroughbred, Tamarillo, one of the most popular and recognized horses on the circuit.
Tamarillo, who won Badminton in 2004 and European gold and silver medals in 2005, is one of the most brilliantly athletic horses in the world, but he can be cheeky and have lapses of concentration, such as the one at Badminton this year which cost him victory there.
“This was the perfect course for him, as he had to concentrate,” said an elated Fox-Pitt. “As this is probably his first and last chance to win Burghley, I couldn’t be more thrilled and excited at the way he went. He wasn’t bothered at all by the mud and was more rideable than he’s ever been. He felt incredible and was really fun to ride.”
Fox-Pitt is also lying third on Ballincoola, a great servant of a horse who was completing his sixth successive Burghley, which may be a record. He won here in 2005 and was third at Badminton in May. “It’s a privilege to ride him,” said Fox-Pitt.
His two horses are split by the Kentucky winner Phillip Dutton riding his reserve Olympic horse, Woodburn, a New Zealand Thoroughbred. Dutton was second on Fox-Pitt in 2005 at Burghley.
“My horse is a true galloper and was full of confidence,” said Dutton. “He finished full of running. The ground was always going to be a major part of the competition, but it rode all right.”
In a demanding day when experience came to the fore, Fox-Pitt’s Olympic team mate, the evergreen Mary King (GBR) is lying fourth and fifth on Imperial Cavalier and Apache Sauce.
HOW THE LEADERBOARD CHANGED
When the trailblazer, riding school proprietor Rosie Thomas (GBR) on Barry’s Best, 16th, came home 7sec inside the optimum time after a brilliant clear round, everyone assumed that the time would be easily achievable, especially as four fences had been removed from the course.
But Thomas’s performance proved even more accomplished than at first suspected in the heavy, muddy ground, as only two more riders achieved the time, Dutton and Fox-Pitt on Tamarillo.
The first two after the dressage, Ruth Edge (GBR) on Mr Dumbledore and Lucy Wiegersma (GBR) on her Badminton runner-up Shaabrak, both retired after refusals.
Ruth’s mishap came at the Land Rover Discovery Valley, fence 7, which proved the most influential fence. Here, riders who approached the ditch without sufficient impulsion found they landed short and were unable to make the distance to the narrow brush fence.
Ten other riders faulted here, including Olympic bronze medallist Daisy Dick who fell off when Hope Street slipped back into the ditch.
Wiegersma’s stop occurred at Capability’s Cutting, a road-crossing and famous Burghley feature fence. Andrew Hoy (AUS) and his 2004 Burghley winner, Moonfleet, stopped here also and subsequently retired.
Another influential fence was a narrow downhill mushroom-shaped fence at 25, which course-designer Mark Phillips (GBR) says “will now be fried”! Victims included his daughter, the World Champion Zara Phillips (GBR), who hit the deck off Ardfield Magic Star. There were four other falls here, including for Matthew Wright (GBR) from L’Aristo du Lado and Germany’s Anna Warnecke from Twinkle Bee.
Belgium’s Karin Donckers was set to challenge for the lead on Rose’s Merlin, but had to pull up when the horse went lame.
Rodolphe Scherer (FRA) is lying sixth after a superb performance on Fairfax who, like Dan Jocelyn’s great old servant Silence, 19th, is 18 years old.
At the other end of the scale, Andrew Nicholson (NZL) describes the nine-year-old Spanish-bred Armada as “pure class – probably the best jumper I’ve ridden”. They are lying 10th.
Georgie Spence, at 19 the youngest rider, was ecstatic after her second four-star clear on Running Brook, 17th. “He’s not very good at show jumping, so I probably won’t win a prize, but I really don’t mind, I’m so thrilled to have had such a good day.”
There were 27 clear rounds from the 59 starters, including for first-timers Sian Wynne-Morris, 18th, Sara Squires, 20th, Emily Gilruth, 27, and Rachel Gough, who has climbed from 70th to 31st on Bow House Mandalin, as the competition moves forward into what should be a thrilling jumping finale.
STANDINGS AFTER CROSS-COUNTRY: 1, William Fox-Pitt/Tamarillo, GBR, 39.8; 2, Phillip Dutton/Woodburn, USA, 50.2; 3, William Fox-Pitt/Ballincoola, 51; 4, Mary King/Imperial Cavalier, GBR, 54.7; 5, Mary King/Apache Sauce, 56.7; 6, Rodolphe Scherer/Fairfax, FRA, 58.2; 7, James Robinson/Comanche, GBR, 58.6; 8, Nicola Wilson/Opposition Buzz, GBR, 61; 9, Clea Phillips/Lead The Way, GBR, 61.6; 10, Andrew Nicholson/Armada, NZL, 61.8.
STANDINGS AFTER THREE LEGS OF THE HSBC FEI CLASSICS (KENTUCKY, BADMINTON & LUHMUHLEN): 1. William Fox Pitt (GBR) – 25 points (Differential Score – 51.00); 2. Phillip Dutton (USA) – 15 points (DS – 41.70); 3. Nicolas Touzaint (FRA) – 15 points (DS – 48.70); 4. Rebecca Holder (USA) – 12 points (DS – 47.30); 5. Lucy Wiegersma (GBR) – 12 points (DS – 49.80); 6. Frank Ostholt (GER) – 12 points (DS – 51.40); 7. Stuart Tinney (AUS) – 10 points (DS – 52.20); 8. Missy Ransehousen (USA) – 10 points (DS – 57.30); 9. Caroline Powell (NZL) – 8 points (DS – 52.80); 10.Stephen Bradley (USA) – 8 points (DS – 57.50).
The HSBC FEI CLASSICS is a new FEI series linking the five 4-Star Eventing competitions currently on the international calendar.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS 2008:
1, Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event (USA) 24-27 April;
2, Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (GBR) 1-4 May;
3, Luhmuhlen CCI**** presented by EON (Ger) 12-15 June;
4, Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (GBR) 4-7 September;
5, FINAL - Les Etoiles de Pau (FRA) 22-26 October.
Points will be awarded to the top ten riders at each event as follows:
1st: 15 points
2nd: 12 points
3rd: 10 points
4th: 8 points
5th: 6 points
6th: 5 points
7th: 4 points
8th: 3 points
9th: 2 points
10th: 1 point
For further information on the fourth leg of the HSBC FEI Classics™ check out website www.burghley-horse.co.uk