William Fox-Pitt wins Burghley horse trials

September 5, 2011

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William Fox-Pitt earned a standing ovation from the rain-soaked crowd as he clinched a record sixth title at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials at the weekend.


William Fox-Pitt. © Horsesports Photographic

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Fox-Pitt showed all his famous finesse and calmness as he conjured a clear round with just one time fault on the sodden ground from Catherine Witt's Parklane Hawk, an 11-year-old New Zealand Thoroughbred by Grosvenor, whom he has had for just 18 months.

He has now beaten the five Burghley victories apiece for Ginny Elliot (GBR) and Mark Todd (NZL), and has equalled Lucinda Green's (GBR) Badminton record of six wins on six different horses.

Burghley was the second to last leg of the HSBC FEI Classics.

"This ranks as one of the best achievements of my life," said a visibly emotional Fox-Pitt afterwards.

"I pretend to look relaxed, but deep down this really matters to me. It's such an honour to win six times and to be among such legends as Mark, Ginny and Lucinda - and Mark's still going, so perhaps he'll beat me next time!

"I can't believe what's happened today. The conditions were against him and going into the arena I was feeling quite sick - Neuf Des Coeurs had three down and I had to go in there saying 'believe in him' but realistically thinking what were the chances of a clear round. I am so lucky to have him," Fox-Pitt said.

"He is still green but is one of my big hopes for next year."

The cheers were nearly as loud for the popular runner-up, Andrew Nicholson (NZL) on the Spanish-bred Nereo, by the Thoroughbred Fines out of a half bred mare by the Hanoverian Golfi, who rose from fifth to second with a beautifully judged clear round.

"Both my horses have done well and Nereo did a good job but William's horse jumped immaculately," Nicholson said.

His second ride, Avebury, hit three fences and dropped six places to eighth. "The wet ground just meant that the oxers in the middle of the course became big jumps, but hitting the gate (fence 4) was my fault," Nicholson said.

"It's been a great Burghley - I think cross-country day was a good day for the sport and there is always such a great crowd here - just look at them - despite the rain they stay to the bitter end. It's been one of the best finales to a major competition. The crowd has been great and I've enjoyed entertaining them."

He added: "I'm pleased with both my horses. They've had a hard year. They'll be taking it easy next spring and then they'll be my top choices for the Olympics. We've got a lot to look forward to in the New Zealand team."

The irrepressible Mary King (GBR) finished third on Derek Baden's Kings Temptress (by Primitive Rising) and has significantly extended her lead in the HSBC FEI Classics. She now leads dual former winner Fox-Pitt by 13 points, which means he will have to win at Pau (FRA) (12-16 October) and King would have to finish lower than eighth if he is to collect his third HSBC FEI Classics title.

"Right, I'd better set off for Pau," was King's immediate reaction.


Mary King and King's Temptress. © Peter Nixon/FEI

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She continued: "I wanted to prove that last week [when she fell at the HSBC FEI European Championships] was in the past. I'm proud of King's Temptress. She's not a great stylist in the jumping phases but she tries her heart out."

King revealed that the mare has had a foal by embryo transfer this summer, by Grafenstöltz.

She also finished 21st with Apache Sauce. "I had two experienced horses here and am chuffed to bits with them," she said.

Leicestershire based Clea Phillips had another good Burghley result with Lead The Way, who finished in sixth place. Lauren Shannon, 24, also from Leicestershire, proved that last year's 12th place with Zero Flight - for which she won best first timer - was no fluke. One of the afternoon's five clear show jumping rounds propelled them 11 places up the leader board after cross-country to a final ninth place and the prize for the best Under-25.

Former Australian and now US citizen Boyd Martin concluded his emotional Burghley journey with Neville Bardos with seventh place for the miracle horse that was pulled from a fatal fire just three months ago.

There were four New Zealand combinations in the top 10, and fourth-placed Caroline Powell's team mates are now very keen that she saves the bouncy veteran Lenamore for next year's Olympic Games.

"At the end of the day he is the most amazing horse," Powell said.

Jonathan Paget (NZL) also showed his promise for 2012 by coming fifth, his best CCI4* result, on Clifton Lush, the only combination to finish on their dressage score. He was also 12th on his World Champs horse Clifton Promise.

"That was Promise's first rail all year I think, so a bit disappointing," Paget said. "The showjumping was tough out there."

Mark Todd rode Major Milestone to a brilliant clear round to finish in 14th spot, with Clarke Johnstone and Incognito III also going clear to finish in 17th position.

Equestrian Sports New Zealand eventing high performance leader Erik Duvander said Burghley had been a great week for the Kiwis.


Andrew Nicholson and Avebury. © Horsesports Photographic

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"They all rode well and while it is a little disappointing with Caroline (Powell) on Lenamore, and Andrew (Nicholson) on Avebury, both taking rails, it wasn't our day. It got very sticky in the showjumping and got worse as it went on," he says. "Even a clear round wouldn't have beaten William today - it was his competition."

Powell had been "unbelievable" on the cross country aboard her little 18-year-old horse.

"Lenamore is such a crowd favourite here and they really pleased everyone by making the cross country look easy."

The combination were one of 10 clear inside the time on the cross country that everyone described as anything but easy.

Duvander was particularly excited about Paget and Clifton Lush's efforts.

"This is a new ride for Jonathan this year and he rode like an absolute champion in the showjumping, which has been the horse's weakest phase. I'm thrilled to have another combination in our list of potentials."

Duvander also had plenty of praise for Johnstone and Incognito III who had been "outstanding" in both the cross country and showjumping phases.

ESNZ chief executive Jim Ellis said the results show the success of a well honed high performance programme.

"Six out of the top 14 is an excellent outcome and confirmation of the ongoing success of our programme as we come toward the end of our Northern Hemisphere season."

Fifty-four horses finished the competition, with 13 penalty-free jumping rounds, a further five had time penalties. There were three withdrawals before jumping, the highest-placed being Elizabeth Power's (IRL) Kilpatrick River, sixth after cross country.

Torrential rain fell all morning and made conditions difficult. Kitty King (GBR) was eliminated in the jumping for two refusals. She rode when the rain was at its heaviest, and High Havoc slid into a fence, nearly unseating King.

The FEI HSBC Classics action now moves to France next month (12-16 October). Fox-Pitt and King, two of the greatest names in the sport, will be fighting it out for the valuable first prize, but the door is wide open for several other riders to leap into the top five.


The Princess Royal presents the HSBC Bursary trophy to Tom McEwen with Brian Robertson, CEO and MD of HSBC and Miranda Rock, President of Burghley Horse Trials as the highest placed rider never to have completed a CCI 4* event before. © Peter Nixon/FEI
HSBC Training Bursary

Tom McEwen (GBR), who wins the HSBC Training Bursary worth US$1000 for the best CCI4* debut, finished in 19th place on Dry Old Party, having collected 12 penalties in the final phase. "It's a pity about the jumping, but the cross country was a great day," said the 20-year-old, who was the youngest competitor at Burghley.

"It's been an unbelievable weekend, and I couldn't have asked for more. It's all really thanks to Alex Franklin, without whom I would never have got such a good dressage mark."

McEwen, a former Pony European team gold medalist, won a team gold medal on Private Rudolf at the Young Rider European Championships at Blair Castle (GBR) two weeks ago. He has decided to defer a university place and continue riding from his home in Wiltshire, where his father, Bobby, is a vet. He trains with Rodney Powell and Alex Franklin and will be spending his bursary on further training.

The 12-year-old Dry Old Party, owned by Jess Meed, was bought from Pippa Funnell, from whom McEwen has also had lessons. He is a former hurdler and was bred in Ireland by John Costello, by Undesperado, the same sire as triple Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Best Mate.

About the winner

William Fox-Pitt, 42, is the current leader of the HSBC Rankings. He has won medals at all levels and has been a member of the senior British team since 1993, winning Olympic team silver (2004) and bronze (2008) medals, world team gold, silver and bronze, plus individual silver in 2010 on Cool Mountain, and six European team gold medals, team bronze and two individual silvers. He won Badminton CCI4* in 2004 on Tamarillo, Luhmühlen CCI4* in 2008 on Macchiato and Kentucky CCI4* last year on Cool Mountain.

His six Burghley winners are: Chaka (1994), Highland Lad (2002), Ballincoola (2005), Parkmore Ed (2007), Tamarillo (2008) and Parklane Hawk (2011). Fox-Pitt won the HSBC FEI Classics in 2008 and 2010.

He lives in Sturminster Newton, Dorset, with his wife Alice, a television racing commentator, and their two young sons Oliver and Thomas.