William Fox-Pitt made his mark at the Barbury International Horse Trials in Wiltshire on Thursday — just 48 hours after being picked for Great Britain’s eventing team for the Rio Olympics.
Fox-Pitt, whose Rio selection came only nine months after he was placed in an induced coma following head trauma suffered as a result of a crashing cross-country fall at the World Young Horse Championships in France, set the pace in Barbury’s CIC two-star, section C.
Riding the Catherine Witt-owned Secret Night, Fox-Pitt recorded a dressage score of 41.1 penalties to lead overnight in the CIC 2* section C by a comfortable margin from American Tiana Coudray and Under The Clocks, with Rio-bound Irish eventer Jonty Evans lying third aboard Cooley Rorkes Drift.
Fox-Pitt won the Tattersalls two-star in Ireland earlier this season on 11-year-old Secret Night, whose latest performance confirmed growing opinion that he could be the Dorset rider’s next big star.
Australian Christopher Burton, who looks set to be a leading contender in Rio, gave a reminder of his quality by opening up a lead of almost five penalties in CIC 2*, section D.
Burton, aboard the highly-rated Nobilis 18, stands on 35.6, well ahead of his fellow Australian Catherine Burrell, riding Urzan, with Britain’s Flora Harris in third on Monart’s Masterpiece.
Wiltshire-based New Zealander Andrew Nicholson, a regular Barbury winner on the now-retired Avebury, is firmly among the CIC 2*, section E contenders.
Nichsolson’s dressage score of 45.0 penalties on Byrnesgrove First Diamond was just 0.8 behind first day leader Tom McEwen, aboard Joyride, while Harris confirmed the strength in depth of her current string by holding third aboard Moylaw Badger.
Barbury’s CIC 3* headline class also began on Thursday, with 38 of a 77-strong field completing dressage tests.
The day’s penultimate rider – Oxfordshire-based Italian Stella Benatti – leads the way on Zaron, who followed up a strong two-star showing at last month’s Nunney International by scoring 42.2 penalties.
Britain’s Laura Collett showed no sign of disappointment at missing out on Rio selection by moving second with Grand Manoeuvre, while McEwen is third on Staff Des Champs and another British rider – Paul Sims – lies fourth aboard Glengarnock.
Image: Laura Collett and Grand Manoeuvre at Barbury, by Adam Dale, courtesy of Barbury International Horse Trials