William Fox-Pitt ended a six-year wait for British success at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials by claiming a dramatic victory on the 15-year-old stallion Chilli Morning.
In doing so, Chilli Morning became the first stallion in history to win an elite four-star event.
It was 46-year-old Fox-Pitt’s 14th four-star crown of his stellar career, but a first Badminton triumph since 2004, while Oliver Townend and Flint Curtis were the last British combination to prevail in 2009.
“I was a little lucky, so I am sorry I made everyone very, very tense watching that!”
But while Fox-Pitt celebrated, there was heartbreak for New Zealander Andrew Nicholson, who followed his rival’s showjumping clear round by having three fences down, pushing him from first to sixth.
Nicholson has a record 35 Badminton completions to his name, but still no title, and there was also misery for Townend and Armada as they plummeted eight places to 11th after collecting 16 faults.
Germany’s Ingrid Klimke and Horseware Hale Bob finished second, 1.2 penalties behind Fox-Pitt’s final score of 39.0, with 2013 Badminton winner Jonathan Paget third on Clifton Lush, Mark Todd (Leonidas II) fourth and Bettina Hoy (Designer 10) fifth.
“It is a massive relief,” Fox-Pitt told Derby House Post. “I can’t believe it.
“You are so in the lap of the Gods when you are lying second going into showjumping. I knew I had to jump a clear round, and I thought I just can’t have another one pole off.
“I was a little lucky, so I am sorry I made everyone very, very tense watching that!
“It’s so exciting. I won here in 2004, and it has been a long wait, but what a horse.
“I am so proud of him. I felt I let him down a little bit in the dressage, and today I think we made it up.
“The fact he is the first stallion to win a four-star makes me feel quite emotional.
“He had that victory coming, he has been knocking on the door. Nick Gauntlett produced him so beautifully, and I was very lucky to pick up the reins in 2012 when he was well and truly produced.
“I did come here feeling he had a good chance, although I felt very angry with myself after dressage.
“I felt he should have been streets ahead of the field here after dressage, and he wasn’t, and I thought I had made his life really difficult with no room for anything, and thank goodness it worked out.”