William Fox-Pitt and Andrew Nicholson are ready to return to eventing after recovering from last year’s serious accidents.
Fox-Pitt suffered a head trauma after falling at an owl hole fence during the cross-country phase of the 2015 World Championships for Young Horses at Le Lion d’Angers last October. He spent about a month at Angers hospital before flying home to begin his rehabilitation at Poole General Hospital.
Last Friday, the Olympic gold medallist announced that he has been given the green light to return to competing.
“Yogi [Breisner] came down this week and we jumped four horses together and it very much feels like all systems go,” Fox-Pitt said in a statement that appeared on his website. “A big thank you to everyone who has supported me through my recovery. I am looking forward to working with Chilli Morning and the rest of the horses and getting going with the season.”
Fox-Pitt hopes to make his comeback at Burnham Market at the beginning of April. Meanwhile, Harry Meade and Hector Payne competed two of Fox-Pitt’s horses at Aldon last weekend — Meade was aboard Reinstated, the horse Fox-Pitt was riding when he fell in France, while Payne teamed up with Dynasty.
Aldon was also the backdrop for Andrew Nicholson’s return. The Kiwi rider, who risked remaining paralysed after suffering a neck injury from a fall at Gatcombe last summer, entered six horses at Aldon and rode one of them, Perfect Stranger, to victory in the Open Intermediate class.
Excellent news about William Fox-Pitt. One month after suffering a head trauma from a fall in the cross country phase at the 2015 World Championships for Young Horses in Le Lion d’Angers, the Olympic medallist is finally back home.
After a prolonged stay at the Angers hospital, he flew back to Britain last week and checked in at Poole General Hospital. There, he continued to make progress and has now been discharged to continue his rehabilitation at home.
“It is fantastic to be back home, it feels like it has been a long time away from my family,” Fox-Pitt said in a statement published on his website. “I would like to thank all the doctors in France from the team at Le Lion D’Angers to those who looked after me in the ICU in Angers. The rehab team in Poole General Hospital have been incredibly thorough.”
“The team at home have been doing an amazing job keeping everything going but luckily everything is quiet as the horses are all on their end of season break. I am looking forward to making a full recovery over the winter.”
The family has requested privacy during Fox-Pitt’s recovery.
William Fox-Pitt has returned to Britain yesterday after his condition improved enough that doctors deemed it safe for him to fly back home.
Fox-Pitt, who suffered a head trauma after falling during the cross country phase at the 2015 World Championships for Young Horses in Le Lion d’Angers, had been staying in a French hospital since October 17.
He took a turn for the better at the end of October, when he left the intensive care unit of the Angers hospital, and continued to make steady progress throughout November. Yesterday he was finally able to fly back to Britain, where his rehabilitation will continue.
“His recovery is likely to take time, but he is up and about and improving day by day,” his wife, Alice, said in a statement. “We are exceptionally grateful for the huge amount of support we have received.”
The family has requested privacy during Fox-Pitt’s recovery.
Image: William Fox-Pitt, shown here with Seacookie at the Chatsworth International Horse Trials 2008, has returned to Britain, where his rehabilitation will continue. Image by Smudge 9000 via Flickr, CC BY 2.0
William Fox-Pitt is making “stead progress” but his recovery is going to take some time, according to a new statement published on his William Fox-Pitt eventing.
The world-number-three has been in hospital since October 17, when he suffered a head trauma after falling during the cross-country phase at the 2015 World Championships for Young Horses in Le Lion d’Angers.
Immediately taken to the hospital in Angers, Fox Pitt has shown signs of steady improvement and was moved out of the intensive care unit at the end of last week. However, it looks like it will be a while longer before he’ll be able to leave the hospital and France.
According to the statement, Fox-Pitt’s “family are hugely grateful to the team who are looking after him, and also to everyone who has sent messages of support.”
William Fox Pitt is improving after suffering a head trauma following a fall in the cross country phase at the 2015 World Championships for Young Horses in Le Lion d’Angers on October 17.
Fox-Pitt and his horse, Reinstated, fell at obstacle number 20, an owl hole. First treated by emergency teams on the course, he was then taken to the hospital in Angers, where he has spent a week sedated and under observation. He has now showing signs of improvement, according to a statement released by British Eventing.
“William has made progress over the weekend; today he is conscious, breathing on his own and communicating with his family and doctors.”
However, the BE statement added, “he is still very ill. He and his family are very grateful for all the support and messages, it is hugely appreciated. Further progress is going to take time, so please continue to respect the family’s privacy.”
Fox Pitt’s horse, Reinstated, was not hurt in the fall.
The rain fell unrelentingly on Blair Castle today and produced thrills and spills galore on cross-country day at the Longines FEI European Eventing Championship in Scotland.
Ian Stark’s track proved as influential as predicted and, as the day went on, a gripping competition unfolded, characterised by some exceptionally gritty, bold riding in less than ideal conditions.
Germany still lies in first place and the reigning champions look unstoppable, with a 47-penalty lead going into tomorrow’s final showjumping phase.
Having won Burghley last week with FischerRocana, Michael Jung produced yet another masterclass of inspired cross-country riding on the youngest horse in the competition, the eight-year-old FischerTakinou, to finish on his dressage score of 33.5, clear and inside the time.
“He is a fast horse with a lot of thoroughbred blood. I set out quite slowly and helped him a bit, but then, towards the end, I said to him, ‘go faster’ and he did, which was a wonderful feeling,” said Jung.
Overnight leaders Sandra Auffarth and Opgun Louvo dropped down the order with 11.2 time penalties, while Ingrid Klimke and Horseware Hale Bob provided the third counting score for Germany, finishing just over the 10 minute 14 second optimum, having gone round in some of the worst conditions at the end of the day.
“The only ‘moment’ we had was at rail and ditch combination [fences 23 and 24ab], where he chipped in a half stride and I tipped forward. Luckily, he galloped away from the fence and it was OK,” said Klimke. “He finished full of running having really enjoyed himself. He’s so smart and bold; such a good fellow!”
The Brits retained their silver-medal position despite suffering mixed fortunes. Pathfinder Kitty King rode to orders and brought the classy 10-year-old Persimmon home clear with 8.4 time penalties, having taken one long route at the third water, the First of Forth Crossing.
“I’m so relieved because I was feeling the pressure this morning,” said King, who revealed that the team physio has been acting as her “psychiatrist” and “listening to all my worries.
“It was a good fun track to ride and it’s great to feel that I haven’t let anyone down,” she added.
The pressure was on after the next rider out, Nicola Wilson, had an uncharacteristic error when One Two Many glanced off at the second of the corners in the arena, but former double European Champion Pippa Funnell pulled a fantastic performance out of the bag with the relatively inexperienced Sandman 7 to boost the home side’s morale. The nine-year-old visibly grew in confidence all the way round and their clear with 9.6 time penalties left the pair 10th on the individual leaderboard.
“I was very conscious of not over-facing this lovely young horse but I knew I couldn’t go quietly because of the team,” said Funnell. “The horse was really classy and I’d love to think we could go to Rio.”
Anchorman William Fox-Pitt, usually the lynchpin of British championship efforts, saw his fortunes tumble still further when Bay My Hero followed a below-par dressage test yesterday with two run-outs at the narrow triple brush at fence 17.
“I can’t blame him. He’s a genuine horse who never normally runs out, but he wasn’t going on the ground, which was deep and holding by the time I went,” said a despondent Fox-Pitt, who retired the gelding at this point.
Individuals Izzy Taylor and Gemma Tattersall were the two standout performers in the British camp, finishing clear and inside the time – the only two riders to do so other than the overnight leader.
“She’s a very good cross-country horse and she was superb the whole way round,” said Taylor. “I was a little bit down on my minute markers and I didn’t want a few sloppy time penalties, so I pressed for home at the end and she responded.”
Wills Oakden, flying the flag for the Scots, produced a superb — albeit slow — clear, but there was disappointment for Holly Woodhead, whose dreams were shattered when DHI Lupison slipped and stopped in the first combination at fence 4. Sarah Bullimore and Oliver Townend both racked up 20 penalties apiece, while Francis Whittington was forced to call it a day when a tiring Easy Target stopped at the influential Haggis, Neeps and Tatties fence (at 21ab and 22). The middle element of this fence had already been removed after three horses in a row fell while negotiating the haggis at the top of the steep precipice.
France, currently lying in the bronze medal position, enjoyed a successful day, posting three clear rounds. Their best-placed rider is championship first-timer Thibaut Vallette, who rode an accomplished round on Qing du Briot to lie fourth individually.
The Netherlands, Sweden and Spain lie fourth, fifth and sixth, but there was disappointment for Ireland, Belgium, Switzerland and Russia, which failed to get three riders home.
1. Michael Jung (GER) and fischerTakinou on 33.5
2. Sandra Auffarth (GER) and Opgun Louvo on 42.6
3. Izzy Taylor (GBR) and KBIS Briarlands Matilda on 44
4. Thibaut Vallette (FRA) and Qing de Briot ENE HN on 45.2
5. Kitty King (GBR) and Persimmon on 45.3
6. Ingrid Klimke (GER) and Horseware Hale Bob on 46.6
7. Gemma Tattersall (GBR) and Arctic Soul on 47.3
8. Dirk Schrade (GER) and Hop and Skip on 48.3
9. Laura Collett (GBR) and Grand Manoeuvre on 48.6
10. Pippa Funnell (GBR) and Sandman 7 on 50.6
1. Germany on 122.7
2. Great Britain on 169.3
3. France on 179.7
4. The Netherlands on 209.3
5. Sweden on 247.8
6. Spain on 253.8
Michael Jung and FischerTakinou jumped clear and inside time during cross-country, helping shore up Germany’s lead at Blair Castle, by Jon Stroud, courtesy of the FEI
Eventing history will be made this week when Scotland stages its first Longines FEI European Eventing Championships at the spectacular Highlands setting of Blair Castle.
But will the script remain unaltered and German domination of the sport be underlined less than 12 months before all routes lead to Rio and next summer’s Olympic Games?
Blair is set to provide its unique challenges — not least a cross-country course designed by British Olympian Ian Stark that will make maximum use of undulating, rolling terrain — and home advantage could be important for a 12-strong Great Britain squad led by former world-number-one William Fox-Pitt.
Eventing’s power-shift in recent years has been graphically illustrated through results at the Europeans. Whereas it used to be a tale of British domination — eight successive team titles between 1995 and 2009 — this is no longer the case.
The last two championships have proved to be German property, with team gold secured in 2011 (Luhmühlen) and 2013 (Malmö), while star rider Michael Jung has claimed a European individual gold medal double, and it would be no surprise if he was joined on the podium this time around by his colleagues Ingrid Klimke and Sandra Auffarth.
Klimke is in the form of her life and fresh from an emphatic three-star triumph at Aachen, while Auffarth arrives in Perthshire as reigning world champion and Jung, just three days ago, won his first British four-star when he captured the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials crown, although at Blair he rides one of his lesser-known horses in FischerTakinou.
France, Sweden, Holland and Ireland will be among the other teams determined to have their say in proceedings, but it is difficult to look beyond the German dream machine as potential winners, despite a healthy British mix of youth and experience having been selected for Blair.
“We are going with a lot of confidence,” Klimke said. “It is quite something that we have come so far as a team (reigning Olympic, World and European champions), but it is also even harder to stay there! You only have to look at some of the surprising results at Burghley to see that anything can happen.”
Britain have not been beaten on home soil in a European Championship since Russia triumphed at Burghley 53 years ago, and they are likely to mount a strong title bid, given the presence of riders like Fox-Pitt, Nicola Wilson, Pippa Funnell, Oliver Townend and Kitty King.
“It makes a nice change to be on home soil,” said Townend, who was part of the 2009 gold medal-winning British team in Fontainebleau, France.
“Blair is a great venue and it is very testing, with a very tough cross-country course. It is a big week, and we are all looking forward to it.”
Townend rides Fenyas Elegance at Blair, while much will also be expected of riders like Fox-Pitt, who is aboard his 2014 Kentucky four-star winner Bay My Hero, an in-form Wilson on One Two Many and renowned dressage star King on Persimmon.
Meanwhile, two remaining Rio Olympics qualification places are up for grabs this week, with France and Sweden among those nations yet to have booked their places in Brazil.
Centre of attention, though, will be Stark’s cross-country course, and he said: “I have tried to create a course that reflects the heritage of Scotland and provides a true test of horsemanship.
“I have used the hills as sympathetically as possible. Riders who attack the course, but who ride intelligently and conserve their horses’ energy for the later combinations, should enjoy a thrilling ride.”
Dressage takes places on Thursday and Friday, with cross-country on Saturday being followed by Sunday’s showjumping finale.
Great Britain squad: Laura Collett (Grand Manoeuvre), Sarah Bullimore (Lilly Corinne), William Fox-Pitt (Bay My Hero), Pippa Funnell (Sandman 7), Kitty King (Persimmon), Wills Oakden (Greystone Midnight Melody), Gemma Tattersall (Arctic Soul), Izzy Taylor (KBIS Briarlands Matilda), Oliver Townend (Fenyas Elegance), Francis Whittington (Easy Target), Nicola Wilson (One Two Many), Holly Woodhead (DHI Lupison).
Derby House Post predictions: Team – 1 Germany, 2 Great Britain, 3 – France, 4 – Ireland, 5 – Sweden, 6 – Holland.
Individual – 1 Ingrid Klimke (Horseware Hale Bob), 2 William Fox-Pitt (Bay My Hero), 3 Sandra Auffarth (Opgun Louvo), 4 Michael Jung (FischerTakinou), 5 Nicola Wilson (One Two Many), 6 Thomas Carlile (Sirocco de Gers).
Image: William Fox-Pitt nd Bay My Hero at the 2015 Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event in Lexington, Kentucky, by StockImageServices.com, courtesy of the FEI
Is there another sport that puts so many obstacles, literal and metaphorical, in the way of actually completing a competition as horse trials? Maybe the clue is in the word trial, as in the definition ‘a painful and difficult experience’.
At the beginning of every event, three day or one day, one knows that some riders, owners and grooms will go home disappointed, devastated even, while others go home on cloud nine, thrilled and elated, and will re-live the moment for days and weeks to come.
The agonies and ecstasies of Burghley are still playing out and, boy, what an emotional roller coaster of an event it has been.
In the last two hours alone, Emily Lochore went through joy, completing the challenging cross-country with Hexmaleys Hayday, a not very easy horse of unknown breeding that she bought as a four year old with no expectation of four-star events. Success was followed by anxiety — worrying whether the horse was ok — and then relief when he passed the final horse inspection, although the lovely-moving Hayday, who doesn’t like crowds, never looked like he was going to be a casualty of the veterinary panel. Still, the relief was palpable.
At this stage, riders start to relax, as there is just the matter of a few coloured fences to jump over. For Lochore, though, it suddenly went awry at fence three, the gate, when, on a wrong stride, Hayday skidded into the gate and slipped over. Lochoreended up sitting on the grass, eliminated. Gutted doesn’t even come close to explain how you feel when you leave the main arena on your feet.
Others who have felt the pain and disappointment, too. Local rider Willa Newton produced one of the fastest rides of the day yesterday and moved up the leader board from 62nd -after dressage to 16th. This morning the horse was withdrawn.
Jeanette Brakewell rode one of the more professional and tidiest rounds yesterday and was then eliminated at the final horse inspection.
First-timer Kirsty Short missed a fence on cross country and was eliminated.
Oliver Townend could be in the lead, was it not for a surprise lurch to the left at the island fence in the trout hatchery in an otherwise foot perfect round.
William Fox-Pitt must have been rueing the time taken over a cosmetic fence repair, during which the pair lost their mojo and Fox-Pitt, like Short, forgot the fence, although, he corrected his mistake at the cost of time penalties that dropped him from the top spot to unlucky 13th.
Michael Jung made an expensive error of judgement and ended up floundering in the water, his first fall at an international competition since 2010. He is also in physical pain as Fischerrocana landed on his leg.
To offset these, we do of course have the opposing tales of delight and joy. So far at Burghley some of these are anyone who is in the top ten but particularly Tim and Jonelle Price who could even hit the record books as a husband and wife one and two! Also, Christopher Burton, who has both his rides in the top five, an impressive achievement.
American Lynn Symansky achieved the lifetime ambition of competing in the UK at Burghley and jumping a clear cross-country round with her OTTB (off the track thoroughbred, as I learnt this week) Donner.
British first-timer Charlotte Brear jumped clear on the lovely, honest and willing Manor Missile, a half-bred shire and an unlikely four-star candidate in modern eventing. Brear is also one a few non-professional riders in the field and Manor Missile is her only horse.
And of course Michael Jung who, as he planned after his first mishap, went to the top of the leaderboard after a fabulous round, if two seconds too slow, aboard his reliable partner Sam, with whom he won his first event in 2006 and subsequently won World (2010), European (2011) and Olympic titles (2012).
The pair has in fact achieved 20 first places together on their journey to Burghley. Can they make it 21?
Image: Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy during the cross country at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, sixth and final leg of the FEI Classics, by Trevor Meeks, courtesy of the FEI
It was a day of ups and downs at the Land Rover. Burghley Horse Trials, not least for world-number-one Michael Jung.
As anticipated, he does sit at the top of the leaderboard, albeit with his Olympic-medal partner Sam rather than his dressage leader Fischerrocana, who rather surprisingly gained a big E when she stumbled and fell into the water at the Lion Bridge, having jumped just the first three fences.
New Zealand husband and wife team, Tim and Jonelle Price, sit in second and third after producing two of the faster rounds of the day, and Australian Christopher Burton is in fourth and fifth, with fellow countryman Bill Levett in sixth.
Shropshire-based Oliver Townend, the highest placed British rider in ninth, set the standard with a confident trailblazing round on Drumgurrihy Blue, who, despite not being built for speed, came home clear with just 5.6 time penalties.
It was a cheering performance from the former winner, as many anticipated getting anywhere near the time would be difficult, due to the change in the direction of the course, which meant an early uphill climb to the Cottesmore Leap rather than the freewheel down Winners Avenue, as has been the case for many years.
After Burton and his first ride Haruzac also gained just a handful of penalties, despite trailing tape from a hind boot all the way round, there was huge anticipation for overnight leader Michael Jung. His first ride round Burghley however lasted just 40 seconds before Jung was floundering in the Lake. He was the only casualty of the day here.
“It was a stupid mistake,” said the German and with good humour adding, “After the fall, my brother said to me, come on now you have to start fighting as you have already gone up a place and are now in sixth place on Sam.”
And fight back he did, with a great performance and masterclass of riding on veteran partner Sam, who gave his all, especially in the second half of the course, to come home just three seconds over the time, shooting them up five places. He could even have gone inside the clear but for a rather understandable more cautious approach into the Lake at Lion Bridge.
“Sam is really assured and confident. I know him really well and we have much experience together,” said Jung. “I was a bit slow at the beginning and when I began to try to make up the time he just fought all the way”.
Jung’s path to the top was made easier after a huge mistake by six time former Burghley winner William Fox-Pitt. The British favourite, who was in equal first overnight, was going well with Fernhill Pimms when he was held for a considerable time, initially due to a fence repair and then to let the following rider through. Once re-started, William then decided to take the long route at the Land Rover Discovery Valley but, in doing so, forgot one fence and had to double back to rectify his error, thus accruing a great many time faults.
“I just had a mental blank and I am very sorry to have let the horse down in such a way,” said Fox-Pitt, who is now well out of contention in 13th place.
Tim Price’s route to the top was not also without its challenges, not least with a lucky route through the Trout Hatchery after Ringwood Sky Boy hit the first element and lurched over three fences. Then, towards the end of the course, the New Zealander felt several sharp stabs on his chest. It transpired he had a wasp down his shirt.
“To be honest it didn’t affect my cross country. Sky Boy has a long stride and struggles with the more difficult fences but fortunately he is also very honest and has a lot of scope.”
Wife Jonelle and Tricia Rickard’s little mare, Classic Moët, reproduced the fast and clear form they showed at last year’s WEG and again came home clear well inside the time.
” She is a fast one and I have to keep up with her,” said Price, who is the world number three. “I was not sure how it was going to ride but I was pleasantly surprised and the mare was faultless.”
Burton and TS Jamaimo, who, like Haruzac, is a thoroughbred, also produced a flawless clear and came home with two seconds to spare.
It all came down to the final rider Oli Townend and his veteran partner Armada, who were in with a chance of going ahead of Jung and Sam.
His opportunity for another Burghley win disappeared, however, with a run-out at the island fence in the middle of the Trout Hatchery and Townend came home understandably annoyed with himself and also upset.
Just 1.5 penalties separates the the top two for tomorrow’s showjumping and final phase although Sam has the better record over coloured poles. It is therefore still quite possible that the winner will also be the best first timer.
Two of the most successful riders in eventing history — British star William Fox-Pitt and German master Michael Jung — will lead the way into Saturday’s Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials cross-country action.
The pair could not be separated after dressage reached its conclusion on Friday, with Fox-Pitt and Fernhill Pimms matching Jung and Fischerrocana FST on 34.2 penalties to set up a thrilling weekend’s action. The German rider is also equal seventh aboard La Biostethique Sam, along with countryman Niklas Bschorer and Tom Tom Go 3.
Australian Sam Griffiths and the ultra-consistent Happy Times lie third on 36.8, with Andrew Hoy and Rutherglen fourth, while 2009 Burghley champion Oliver Townend is equal-fifth aboard Armada with current top New Zealand challenger Tim Price, riding Ringwood Sky Boy.
Nine combinations posted dressage scores of under 40, which is believed to be unprecedented in Burghley’s long history, but there are likely to be significant leaderboard changes after a cross-country examination that Townend describes as “the toughest Burghley I’ve seen.”
Former world-number-one Fox-Pitt, who has won 14 four-star crowns during his stellar career, delivered a serene dressage test on his four-star debutant, and was understandably delighted afterwards.
“Fernhill Pimms is very able in the dressage — he has done some fantastic dressage tests during his career,” said Fox-Pitt, who is chasing a seventh Burghley title this year.
“I certainly hoped he would do well, and I am very excited that he did a test like that in this kind of company.
“Saturday is a big day. He might be up for it and be brilliant, or he might be green. It is nearly a championship course.
“The questions are there in front of you, so it is about getting into a good rhythm, reading your horse and reading how he is feeling. It’s a long way round.”
Townend and the brilliant cross-country exponent Armada would appear to be in a very strong position, given their dressage score of 38.7, and the Yorkshireman has two other rides in Dromgurrihy Blue and Samuel Thomas II.
“Everyone knows that Armada is a very good cross-country horse, touch wood,” Townend said.
“It is the toughest Burghley I’ve seen. Badminton two years ago, with the rain also, was fairly huge, but this is the biggest Burghley in my memory. I am looking forward to it.”
Price, meanwhile, backed Townend’s assessment, adding: “No matter how good a horse you are sitting on, a course like this one on Saturday is so demanding that you need to be good and the horse needs to be on form.
“There is a magical feel when you arrive at Burghley each year — then you walk the course and it gets very serious and very real.”
Even the dressage, quite often a formality at these events, is getting exciting at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. While there are just another 10 left to enter the arena for the first phase there is plenty of opportunity for some more changes to the leader board as there have already been this morning.
Michael Jung and Fischerrocana still sit at the top but have been joined, on exactly the same score, by British favourite William Fox-Pitt and his Burghley debutant Fernhill Pimms. Sir Mark Todd, Sam Griffiths, Tim Price and Frenchman Cedric Lyard have all also helped rearrange the overnight top ten.
The question now is will Jung and his Olympic veteran partner La Biosthethique Sam overtake the leading score and give him the sole lead again? We will know in just 90 minutes.
Meanwhile, while the action has been hotting up in the main arena, ring two is hosting the Dubarry Burghley young event horse finals. This morning was the turn of the best five-year-olds and at the end of the class it was Tiana Coudray who held the Dubarry Boot trophy. The British-based American had a convincing win with her own and Dr Liz Williams’ Irish Sport Horse mare Cavilier Crystal. The pair led from start to finish and along the way was awarded the best score in the jumping phase, as well as the top mark for suitability and potential from final phase judge Jane Holderness Roddam.
Second placed Treworder also looked a top horse in the making, which is just what his breeders, Vin and Elizabeth Jones, had in mind six years ago when they put the mare Welton Lady (a BYEH winner in 1996) in foal to the German eventing stallion Grafenstolz. The 17hand Treworder, who also won the prize for the best British-bred, grew in confidence around the jumping course, a mix of coloured poles followed by cross-country fences, and really showed his mettle with a ground covering gallop in the final phase.
BYEH regular Nicky Roncoroni made the top three again, this time with Monbeg Medlar, another to have been bred in Ireland who gained high marks for conformation and type.
It was a high quality top ten and as Jane Holderness Roddam said after ” I would quite happily have taken any of them home.”
Right now, the four-year-olds are taking centre stage in Ring Two and Michael Jung is warming up Sam. While I know the four-year-old final always attracts a great number of young horse and breeding enthusiasts, I have a feeling that it will be standing room only round the main arena as everyone is becoming riveted by this exciting competition that is unfolding right now.
William Fox-Pitt believes that his 2015 ride, Fernhill Pimms, ticks one of the most important boxes at any Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials — the one marked bravery.
The 11-year-old gelding will make a four-star debut at the showpiece Lincolnshire event, having risen impressively through the ranks.
And while British star and former world-number-one Fox-Pitt acknowledges the challenge ahead, starting with dressage on Friday, he is looking forward to seeing how the 2013 Blenheim CIC3* eight- and nine-year-old winner responds.
“I have got a good little horse,” said Fox-Pitt, whose enviable portfolio includes six Burghley titles collected between 1994 and 2011.
“He is quite inexperienced, but he is a brave horse, and if he is up for it then there is no reason why he can’t jump around.
“This is his first four-star, and while I believe it is a big test for him, I also believe he is ready.
“He can just be a little bit cheeky, and if he is not being cheeky, then he should go really well.
“In other four-stars now, you can maybe get away with a horse that has a lot of talent, but perhaps not so much courage, but at Burghley you need courage.
“You also need them to be fit because it is going to be a demanding cross-country day on Saturday, come rain or shine.”
Image: A fence inspired by the Rugby World Cup at Burghley Horse Trials, by Nixon Photos, courtesy of Burghley Horse Trials
Will the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials be a one man, two-horse race this year? There is a distinct possibility that Burghley’s ‘best first timer’ award could go to the event winner. That’s because Germany’s Michael Jung, who is the reigning Olympic and European champion, world-number-one and general super-rider (not to mention international showjumper), is making his much-awaited Burghley debut this year, a week before he defends his European title at Blair Castle.
Jung has to be a front runner for the Land Rover Perpetual Challenge trophy, especially as he brings both La Biosthethique Sam, his 2012 Olympic-gold-medal partner and the mare Fischerrocana FST, with whom he won Lexington CCI4* in the spring and individual World silver last year.
While I am sure Jung has assiduously done his homework and watched every video possible in his preparation for the event, Burghley will nonetheless be a new experience for all three, who will never have encountered a track quite like Mark Phillips’ course, which makes full use of the undulations of Burghley Park. It is a fair bet however that he will sit at the top of the leader board — in first and second — at the end of dressage.
It is perhaps not just Burghley that Jung would like to add to his impressive CV as he currently lies second in the FEI Classics series behind his compatriot Ingrid Klimke, who is not entered. Points here will turn into euros as Burghley is the sixth and final leg in the 2014/15 series and the outcome will decide who banks the biggest cheque.
Jung will of course have world-class opposition and much of it with Burghley experience. British favourite (and world-number-two) William Fox-Pitt has the advantage of having ridden round the Park for over 20 years and has a record six wins to his name. It is expected that his more experienced entry, Bay My Hero, will head to Blair, leaving William with four-star debutant Fernhill Pimms to fly his flag, which could be a big ask.
Former winner Oliver Townend, who is having a good year, not only has his four-star veteran Armada but also the choice of Dromgurrihy Blue, who perhaps has the disadvantage of being this year’s Burghley pathfinder, as well as newish ride Samuel Thomas.
Popular Yorkshire lass Nicola Wilson has two very good chances to spring her first Burghley and four-star win with either Annie Clover or One Two Many and former winner Pippa Funnell has three entries (Mirage D’Elle, Redesigned and Second Supreme) and, as she showed at Badminton, is having a bit of a renaissance at the level.
As always, the Antipodeans will provide a strong challenge. Five-times winner Sir Mark Todd, (at 59 the elder statesman of the field) rides Leonidas, with whom he was fourth at Badminton, while fellow New Zealander Tim Price (Ringwood Sky Boy) is always a solid performer, as is his wife Jonelle (The Deputy), and both have good proven Burghley cross-country horses, although perhaps not the best showjumpers.
There are also a handful of good Australians. Sam Griffiths and Paul Tapner are both big-time four-star winners, while Christopher Burton, the newly crowned British Open Champion, could bag another four-star win with TS Jamaimo, with whom he won the Adelaide four-star in 2013. Murray Lamperd and Under the Clocks went well here last year, although they may be a bit rusty, as the pair has been in different continents for most of the year.
Pinning down a winner is not easy but I expect to see Jung, Burton, Fox-Pitt, Wilson Todd, Townend and Tapner in the final reckoning.
However, there will be one significant rider missing from the final line-up this year: Andrew Nicholson who is recuperating from his fall and subsequent operation. The New Zealand veteran, who pulled off the incredible achievement of winning here for the last three years with Avebury, as well as totalling a record 33 completions, has by my reckoning missed just one Burghley (1992) since his debut in 1991. He will be much missed by competitors, spectators and media alike.
Image: Michael Jung (GER), pictured here on La Biosthetique Sam at Luhmühlen CCI 4* in June, will make his Burghley debut this year. Burghley is the sixth and final leg of the FEI Classics™ 2014/2015. Picture courtesy of Eventing Photo/FEI
It’s been another corkingly full-on week for equestrians; for eventers, in particular, the big one at home was the NAF International at Hartpury College (Gloucestershire) and the really big one in Europe was the FEI Nations Cup running alongside the European dressage championships in Aachen (Germany) while in Bialy Bor, Poland British Juniors battled it out in their annual big one, the FEI Junior European Championships.
It was a full four days of competition for the organisers at Hartpury College who ran three large international sections — two three-day (CCI) at one and two-star level and a one-day (CIC) three star.
World number two, William Fox-Pitt, cruised to victory in the Superflex CIC3*, with Catherine Witt’s Bay My Hero. The former Lexington winner (2014) was having his first real run since Barbury in July — the pair did dressage practice only at Gatcombe — this time with rather more intention, collecting just 0.8pen for being just 2 seconds over the time.
A clear over the coloured poles gave the combination a comfortable victory and they were the only ones to finish with a sub 40pen score. They now head to the European Championships as part of the 12-rider squad for the European Championships at Blair Castle (September 10-13), although the team has yet to be decided.
Reve de Rouet was second for Bedfordshire-based Sarah Bullimore. It was a good prep and confidence-boosting result for the Burghley-bound 11-year-old who produced a double clear to finish on his dressage score. Former Junior team member Ibby Macpherson, from Northamptonshire produced her best result to date, taking third in the class of 90 starters with 11-year-old Ballingowan Diamond, who also produced a double clear. It was also a good day for Sarah ‘Cutty’ Cohen who was back at the top with the Preci-Spark owned and bred Treason who finished in fourth place.
Pippa Funnell was one to fall foul of Eric Winter’s three-star cross-country course and finished at the wrong end of the scoreboard after an ‘unseating of rider’ from the talented grey Billy the Biz, who had led the dressage on the first day. Billy Cuckoo however made up for the misdemeanour of her stable-mate providing Funnell with second place in the Magic CCI2*—the mare’s first two-star completion.
The class was won by Thomas Carlile. The Frenchman from Toulouse — who is of British parentage and fast becoming a renowned producer of young horses — claimed the class with the Anglo-Arab cross Upsilon who led from day one, although he used up his final-day leading margin with a rare refusal in the showjumping. The grey stallion, fifth in the world six-year-old championships at Le Lions last year, nonetheless now has the impressive record of four wins from five international starts.
The Optimum CCI1* provided a first three-day win for 25-year-old Caroline Harris, as well as another success for the Billy stud. Harris, who runs a yard in Somerset, headed the class from start to finish with the seven-year-old mare Billy Bumble, who is by the world’s number one jumping sire Kannan.
It was a fitting win for the pair who last year at Osberton won the Welton Romance trophy, presented to the highest mare in the six-year-old Young Horse Championship. The trophy was originally donated by the late Sam Barr, whose famous ‘Welton’ horses were bred just down the road from Hartpury College at Barr’s famous Limbury Stud.
Former Young Rider team gold medallist Tom Jackson, who makes his four-star debut at Burghley in two weeks, finished second, just 1penalty behind, with the Dutch-bred Dowalda, and also collected collecting the Denis Ivan trophy for the highest placed Pony Club rider, while Leicestershire-based Willa Newton took third with Caja 20.
Event Director, Phillip Cheetham, said: “This has been another amazing display of world-class eventing right across the whole week and everyone involved has worked incredibly hard to pull off one of the biggest events of our equestrian calendar.”
Image: William Fox-Pitt on Bay My Hero, courtesy of Hartpury College
William Fox-Pitt’s former ride, Tamarillo, was put down on July 28 at age 23.
It was aboard Tamarillo that Fox-Pitt won Badminton in 2004 and Burghley in 2008. The combination first impressed in the Blarney CCI2*, which they won in 2000. After finishing second at Badminton in 2002, they earned a spot in the squad that contested the Jerez World Equestrian game—and promptly won team bronze.
After winning Badminton in 2004, the pair went on to shine at the Athens Olympics, where they won team silver and at the Blenheim Europeans in 2005, where the landed team gold and individual silver, before representing Britain at the 2006 WEG in Aachen, where they got team silver. Tamarillo ended his career with the 2008 victory at Burghley, having earned a total of 1636 British Eventing points.
“He had an incredible presence, “ Fox-Pitt wrote in a statement, published on his website. “He was one in a million and I feel very lucky to have partnered him for all those special years.”
His words were echoed by Yogi Breisner, Chef d’Equipe to the British Eventing, who said: “Tamarillo was a great character and one of the most talented horses I was fortunate enough to come across. He had a fantastic record and was a major contributor to several medals for the British Team. I know he had a very happy retirement and will be sorely missed, but we all have the wonderful memories of his incredible career. “
Owned by MW and Finn Guinness, Tamarillo enjoyed his last few years at Fox-Pitt’s yard “under the watchful eye of Jackie Potts. The horse, who was by Tarnik out of Mellita, has a clone, Tomatillo, born in 2013.
Eventing’s northern lights are set to shine brightly next week with confirmation of a stellar entry for the Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials.
Reigning world champion Sandra Auffarth and current world number one William Fox-Pitt lead an outstanding cast-list that features six former Bramham winners across the headline CCI and CIC three-star classes.
It provides further confirmation of Bramham’s high-profile status on the eventing map, with riders flocking to a competition that was founded 41 years ago and takes place in glorious Bramham Park, which is situated between Leeds and Wetherby in West Yorkshire.
Auffarth is currently spending time in Britain with German eventing team coach Chris Bartle, the Yorkshireman who masterminded recent Olympic, World and European titles, and she will contest the CIC three-star aboard Opgun Louvo.
German ace Auffarth and Opgun Louvo were individual bronze medallists at London 2012, and then won the world title in Normandy last September. She rarely competes in Britain, so her appearance represents a major coup for Bramham organisers as they put the finishing touches to preparations for this year’s event, which runs from June 11-14.
Fox-Pitt, who this week reclaimed the world number one spot from Auffarth’s fellow German star Michael Jung, has a remarkable record at Bramham.
He has won the CCI three-star a record seven times, including back-to-back victories in 2012 and 2013 with his reigning Badminton champion and likely 2016 Rio Olympics ride Chilli Morning, and this year he arrives with a former Bramham CIC three-star for eight and nine-year-olds winner Fernhill Pimms.
The CCI three-star offers a first prize of just under £6,000, in addition to a year’s use of an Equi-Trek Sonic horse box, and it promises to be eagerly-contested.
Yorkshireman Oliver Townend, who has never won Bramham’s three-star, will arrive with Skyhills Cavalier, Dunbeau and ODT Ghareeb, while New Zealander Andrew Nicholson – a previous champion on Nereo – has MHS King Joules and Perfect Stranger, while former European individual gold medallist Tina Cook is on Star Witness and Calvino II.
There are potential winners throughout the entry list, with Pippa Funnell aiming her recently-crowed Chatsworth champion Sandman 7 at the Bramham title, while the chances of Kitty King (Persimmon), Sarah Cohen (Treason) and Francis Whittington (Fernhill Highlight) also cannot be discounted.
Visitors to Bramham will also have an opportunity to watch some of eventing’s brightest young talent in action, courtesy of the Bishop Burton College Under-25 CCI three-star, with Tom Jackson looking to successfully defend his title amid a strong challenge from riders like Dani Evans, Emily King and Holly Woodhead.
The action starts at Bramham on Thursday, June 11 with dressage for the CCI and CIC sections, while the under-25s are all day Friday, and Saturday sees riders in all sections tackling Ian Stark’s stunning cross-country challenge, before Sunday’s showjumping finale.
British Showjumping classes are also on the Bramham schedule, highlighted by the Wetherby Skip Services Grand Prix and the Bramham Classic. Entries include a remarkable seven members of the Whitaker family – Ellen, George, James, William, Joe, Steven and Louise – in addition to Robert Smith, Kerry Brennan and Pippa Allen.
And Bramham additionally hosts a number of classes in the Hunter Show on Thursday, including Horse of the Year Show qualifiers for light, middle and heavyweight and working Hunters, and a Dubarry Burghley young event horse four and five-year-old qualifier ahead of the prestigious championship final at Burghley in September.
Image: Pippa Funnell riding Or Noir de la Loge in the CCI*** at Bramham last year