Despite dropping a jumping rail, William Fox-Pitt and Parklane Hawk kept their cross-country lead to win the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day-Event in Lexington at the weekend.
Just 27 started the final showjumping phase and fault-free rounds over the 18 obstacles were scant, with just four going clear and inside time.
The win means that William Fox-Pitt is now well on track to take the $US350,000 Rolex Grand Slam prize for the rider who wins the Burghley, Kentucky and Badminton horse trials in succession, with just the final event getting under way on May 3.
“What a relief and what a fantastic horse!” Fox-Pitt said. “It is a great honour and a great pleasure to be here back at Rolex and it’s such a tremendous event – the atmosphere is second to none and it’s been an amazing week for me. A huge relief and lucky I had a fence in hand!”
Will less than a rail between first and second going into the final phase, victory could have been Allison Springer’s on Arthur, but they too dropped a rail, to end on 47.0 penalties. Fox-Pitt ended with 45.3.
And had he jumped clean as he almost always does, victory would have gone to Jonathan Paget and Clifton Promise – but it was not to be for the Kiwi challengers, who dropped two rails to finish sixth overall with 52.8.
Third instead went to Boyd Martin on the white-faced Otis Barbotiere with 51 penalties, who produced one of five clear stadium rounds over Richard Jefferies’ track, and rose to his best CCI4* result since winning Adelaide (Aust) in 2003. It was the horse’s first CCI4* and Martin said: “He’s going to be awesome in all three phases. This weekend has confirmed what I already thought about the horse.”
Martin’s second mount Remington XXV also gave him eighth place with 56.9.
Karen O’Connor (US) kept her hopes of a sixth Olympic Games alive with a great clear round and fourth place on new ride Mr Medicott. She finished on an equal score to Martin, but his faster cross-country time prevailed.
Another US rider, William Coleman completed a great weekend by finishing on his dressage score on Twizzel for fifth, with 51.3. Following Paget and Clifton Promise, Andrew Nicholson and the Spanish-bred mare Qwanza went clear to take seventh place with 55.8, rising from 24th place after dressage, with no further penalties added. This earned him enough HSBC FEI Classics points to propel him into second place on the leaderboard, following his second place at Pau (France) last year. Like Fox-Pitt, Nicholson has two good rides – Avebury and Mr Cruise Control – for Badminton where the next stage of the HSBC FEI Classics action takes place.
Fox-Pitt was full of praise for his New Zealand thoroughbred Parklane Hawk. “He’s a super jumper, I think the atmosphere was quite a big deal – he came in a bit tight and tense and yes, he rolled a pole but so what? He basically jumped very well indeed.
“The pressure was on and the course is the Rolex four star and it’s my second leg in the Grand Slam and I’ve never got this close before. To be this close is so exciting and what a great way to finish up!
“He’s a horse I believe in – he needed to answer the questions but then for it to be the second leg [of the Rolex Grand Slam] and to be that close I was thinking ‘don’t let it slip away’ and he didn’t! He’s fabuous and what an amazing horse – I’m very lucky to have the ride on him.”
“It’s a fantastic position to be in. I’ve never managed to win two CCI4*s in a row until now, let alone three! I think it may be quite unlikely, but we will see,” said Fox-Pitt, who rides Neuf des Couers and Seacookie at Badminton next weekend.
Parklane Hawk raced in New Zealand under the name Park Lane, until the age of six, and is now 11. His sire, Grosvenor, is also the sire of Blyth Tait’s Santos. Parklane Hawk was previously competed by Kiwi Olympian Matthew Grayling before being sold to Catherine Witt.
Parklane Hawk’s dam, Deebee Lady won five races and is by the renowned sport horse sire Brilliant Invader, the sire of Blyth Tait’s Olympic gold medal horse Ready Teddy, among many other top eventers and jumpers. Brilliant Invader is also the damsire of reigning New Zealand showjumping Horse of the Year, Daffodil.
Parklane Hawk had 19 starts – 13 on the flat and three apiece over steeples and hurdles. He was third once over steeples, but fell and was pulled up on the other two occasions. He had third, fourth and fifth placings on the flat, earning $1875. He dropped his jockey six times in his first seven starts.
“Parklane Hawk normally jumps a clear round, but he was kind of messing around, not really looking at the fences. He used to be very strong in the Jumping but he’s got better. He’s a big trier, and not a confrontational horse. He’s adapted to eventing very quickly from racing – he’s is an amazing horse,” Fox-Pitt said.
Fox-Pitt has won 47 CCIs, including 11 CCI4*s: Badminton (2004), Burghley a record six times (1994, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2011), Luhmühlen (2008), Kentucky twice (2010 and 2012) and Pau (2011). He is the only rider to have won five out of the world’s six CCI4*s. He won the HSBC FEI Classics in 2008 and 2010, and his six Burghley winners are: Chaka (1994), Highland Lad (2002), Ballincoola (2005), Parkmore Ed (2007), Tamarillo (2008) and Parklane Hawk (2011).
He has also represented Britain 15 times in championships, winning Olympic silver (2004) and bronze (2008), world team gold and individual silver on Cool Mountain (2010) plus team silver in 2006 and team bronze in 2002. He has six European team gold medals, team bronze and two individual silvers (1997 and 2005). Fox-Pitt, 43, is married to Alice, a racing commentator on television. They live in Sturminster Newton, Dorset, and have two young sons, Oliver and Thomas.
Springer was gracious in defeat and thrilled with her horse. “I’ve worked hard on his skills and on my skills and I knew what I had to do. I think my horse has a big future – he is only 13 and so I should have him to ride until the 2016 Olympics as well!”
HSBC Training Bursary
Marilyn Little-Meredith (USA), who so impressed with her two clear cross country rounds, won the HSBC Training Bursary worth $1000 for the best CCI4* debut. She finished ninth on RF Demeter, having slipped a couple of places with three rails down. Little-Meredith, who has won at CCI2* and CIC3* level, made the career switch from Grand Prix jumping to eventing only two years ago.
She is helped by David and Karen O’Connor. Her other ride, RF Rovano Rex, was 10th after Cross Country but was one of four horses withdrawn before the jumping. In 2010, Little-Meredith won two classes at Spruce Meadows CSI5* on Blue Curacao.
1 William Fox-Pitt/Parklane Hawk (GBR) 41.3 + 0 + 4 = 45.3
2 Allison Springer/Arthur (USA) 39.8 + 3.2 + 4 = 47.0
3 Boyd Martin/Otis Barbotiere (USA) 51.0 + 0 + 0 = 51.0
4 Karen O’ Connor/Mr Medicott (USA) 44.2 + 6.8 + 0 = 51.0
5 William Coleman/Twizzel (USA) 51.3 + 0 + 0 = 51.3
6 Jonathan Paget/Clifton Promise (NZL) 44.8 + 0 + 8 = 52.8
7 Andrew Nicholson/Qwanza (NZL) 55.8 + 0 + 0 = 55.8
8 Boyd Martin/Remington XXV (USA) 45.3 + 7.6 + 4 = 56.9
9 Marilyn Little-Meredith/RF Demeter (USA) 49.0 + 2.8 + 12 = 63.8
10 Phillip Dutton/Mighty Nice (USA) 58.7 + 0 + 8 = 66.7
11 Peter Barry/Kilrodan Abbott (CAN) 60.3 + 3.2 + 4 = 67.5
12 Phillip Dutton/Fernhill Eagle (USA) 59.0 + 0.8 + 8 = 67.8
HSBC FEI Classics 2012 Leaderboard (after 3 out of 6 events):
1 William Fox-Pitt (GBR) 30
2 Andrew Nicholson (NZL) 16
3 Stuart Tinney (AUS) 15
4 Allison Springer (USA) 12
5 Sonja Johnson (AUS) 12
6 Boyd Martin (USA) 10
7 Emma Mason (AUS) 10
8 Mary King (GBR) 8
9 Karen O’Connor (USA) 8
10 Natalie Blundell (AUS) 8
HSBC FEI Classics 2012 calendar
Les Etoiles de Pau CCI 4* (FRA) – 12-16 October 2011
Australian International 3 Day Event (AUS) – 18-20 November 2011
Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event (USA) – 26-29 April 2012
Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials (GBR) – 4-7 May 2012
Luhmühlen CCI 4* (GER) – 14-17 June 2012
The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (GBR) – 30 August-2 September 2012
At the end of the HSBC FEI Classics 2012 season, the five riders with the highest number of points collected among the HSBC FEI Classics events will be awarded their share of a total prize fund of US$333,000 split as follows:
1st – US$150,000 (Series Champion)
2nd – US$75,000
3rd – US$50,000
4th – US$33,000
5th – US$25,000
Additional reporting: Kate Green