William Fox-Pitt (GBR), the new world number one, is on top again, this time at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (GBR), the second-last leg of the HSBC FEI Classics™, where he leads after the first day of Dressage on a mark of 39.7. Fox-Pitt (GBR), who is wearing the special armband as leader of the HSBC Rankings, has posted the only sub-40 mark so far on his first ride, Catherine Witt’s 11-year-old Parklane Hawk, winner of the Blenheim CCI3* (GBR) last year.
The British pair lead Andrew Nicholson (NZL) and the attractive grey Avebury by 2.3 penalties. Elizabeth Power (IRL) and the ex-racehorse Kilpatrick River, back in action after their fall at Badminton (GBR) in May and making their debut at Burghley, are third. Mary King (GBR), current leader in the HSBC FEI Classics™, is fourth on Apache Sauce.
Fox-Pitt, who has been penalised for one error of course – halting at the wrong marker – described scoring in the 30s as a “psychological boost”. He says of the New Zealand-bred Thoroughbred by Grosvenor: “He has a superb brain and a lovely trot. He’s all the things you dream about in a horse.”
Fox-Pitt, Nicholson and King, who have decades of experience at Burghley between them, are viewing with interest the new-look Cross Country course, designed by Mark Phillips (GBR) to have a more traditional look in honour of the event’s 50th birthday.
Fox-Pitt, a five-time Burghley winner, said: “It’s a big, attacking course. It feels quite long, but it’s flowing, which should help riders get into a rhythm.”
Nicholson, the winner in 1995 and 2000, commented: “The first part is quite intense with some difficult lines, and then it’s a lot of big, plain fences. I think the key will be working out where to save energy. It’s a good change of style and I hope we’ll all enjoy it.”
King, the 1996 winner, said: “It looks amazing. The fences are beautiful and much bigger than usual. Apache Sauce is capable of doing it, as long as his rider doesn’t get it wrong!”
Australian rider Chris Burton, paying his first visit to Burghley since 2004, was more blunt: “It’s very big, very long and very scary. A proper four-star track.”
Winner of Adelaide CCI4* in 2008 on Holstein Park Leilani, and currently lying 17th on 54.5, Burton added: “We went through a style in Australia of lots of skinnies and angles. There isn’t much of that here – it’s pretty meaty out there. I just hope I get further than I did last time, when I fell off at the fourth fence.”
Another rider who has seen Burghley’s differing styles over 20 years is Blyth Tait (NZL), winner in 1998 and 2001. He is back from a seven-year retirement from the sport and is due to perform his Dressage test tomorrow morning on Santos, a horse by the same sire, Grosvenor, as Parklane Hawk.
Other tests to look forward to include Burghley first-timer Sinead Halpin (USA), who is currently lying seventh in the HSBC FEI Classics™ after finishing third at Rolex Kentucky (USA) in April on Manoir de Carneville, and the German pair Simone Deitermann and NRW Free Easy.
Seven former Burghley winners will come before the Ground Jury of Angela Tucker (GBR), Michel Asseray (FRA) and Christina Klingspor (SWE) tomorrow: Lucinda Fredericks (AUS), defending champion Caroline Powell (NZL), Pippa Funnell (GBR) and Oliver Townend (GBR), as well as Fox-Pitt, King and Nicholson on their second rides.
Follow the action on www.burghley-horse.co.uk
Results after first day of Dressage:
- 1 William Fox-Pitt/Parklane Hawk (GBR) 39.7 penalties
- 2 Andrew Nicholson/Avebury (NZL) 42.0
- 3 Elizabeth Power/Kilpatrick River (IRL) 43.3
- 4 Mary King/Apache Sauce (GBR) 44.8
- 5 Laurence Hunt/Pheobus (GBR) 45.3
- 6 Sam Griffiths/Happy Times (AUS) 45.5
- 7 Gaby Cooke/Sir Roscoe (GBR) 46.3
- 8 Oliver Townend/Neo du Breuil (GBR) 46.7
- 9 Fiona Hobby/Roma M.L. (GBR) 48.0
- 10 James Robinson/Comanche (GBR) 48.8
HSBC FEI Classics Standings™ (after 3 of 5 events)
- 1 Mary King (GBR) 28 points
- 2 Piggy French (GBR) 20
- 3 Mark Todd (NZL) 15
- 4 Andreas Dibowski (GER) 15
- 5 Sandra Auffarth (GER) 12
- 6 Clayton Fredericks (AUS) 12
- 7 Sinead Halpin (USA) 10
- 8 Frank Ostholt (GER) 10
- 9 William Fox-Pitt (GBR) 10
- 10 Oliver Townend (GBR) 9
Photo caption: William Fox-Pitt (GBR), the new world number one in the HSBC Rankings, heads the field after the first day of Dressage at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. Photo: Kit Houghton/FEI.