It says everything about William Fox-Pitt the man that his immediate thoughts after winning a first Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials title since 2004 were to thank those who helped make it possible.
Fox-Pitt has always been an epitome of modesty throughout a stellar riding career.
And that enviable trait surfaced again in the aftermath of a stunning Badminton victory aboard 15-year-old stallion Chilli Morning.
As Fox-Pitt wiped away a tear outside Badminton’s main arena while he absorbed the magnitude of his triumph, there were words from the heart for Chilli’s owners Christopher and Lisa Stone, plus his fellow four-star eventer Nick Gauntlett, who produced the horse.
“Chris Stone couldn’t be here due to company business, but he sent me a message on Sunday morning and said just ride him like you are in the field at home, so I had those words in my ears, and it worked. I am so thrilled for Chilli’s owners,” Fox-Pitt said.
“The fact he is the first stallion to win a four-star makes me feel quite emotional. He is an exceptionally-talented horse who has been slightly handicapped by being a stallion. Everyone knows that.
“But he has got such a good brain, and he had that win coming. He has been knocking on the door. Nick Gauntlett produced him so beautifully, and I was very lucky to pick up the reins when he was well and truly produced.”
Gauntlett looked on as Fox-Pitt delivered an ice-cool clear round under intense pressure to land the trophy ahead of Germany’s Ingrid Kimke and New Zealander Jonathan Paget.
Andrew Nicholson and Oliver Townend, who held first and third places respectively following cross-country, dropped to sixth in Nicholson’s case after he knocked three fences down with Nereo, and third became 11th for Townend and Armada when they posted 16 faults.
“It was a long time ago when I won at Badminton with Tamarillo, and it makes you realise how hard it is,” Fox-Pitt added.
“It was very easy to think it was all over with a rider like Andrew in front. He doesn’t make many mistakes, but I was determined to keep the pressure on him.”
Gauntlett, meanwhile, said of Chilli: “He is such a lovely horse, and he has come so close a number of times with William. He was raw at the beginning, but I am so pleased for him and so pleased for William.
“We found him in Germany as a five-year-old, and I jumped him around Burghley as a 10-year-old. He won his first novice and he won a three-star with me. He looked like the real deal.”
With Badminton done and dusted for another year, Fox-Pitt will move on to the likes of Bramham and Luhmuhlen next month as the eventing season continues in full swing.
But is perhaps also time to take stock and reflect on the monumental achievements of a rider who will surely go to next year’s Rio Olympic Games as the British eventing team’s spearhead.
Fox-Pitt not only gave Britain an overdue Badminton champion – the first since Townend and Flint Curtis triumphed in 2009 – he also made another entry to a career portfolio that is now full to bursting point.
He has won a record 14 four-star titles (six Burghley, two Badminton, three Kentucky, two Pau and one Luhmuhlen), 55 CCI events, four FEI Classics crowns, three Olympic team medals, six team and individual World Championship medals, six European team gold medals, one team bronze, two individual silvers and one individual bronze.
In any sporting context, they represent truly remarkable success, but above all it proves that nice guys really do win.