The world’s two leading event riders are sharing the top spot after the second day of dressage at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials in Britain.
William Fox-Pitt, a record six-time winner, has raised the stakes with a brilliant performance on CCI4* first-timer Fernhill Pimms which equalled the Olympic champion Michael Jung’s score of 34.2 on FisherRocana FST on Thursday in sixth and final leg of the FEI Classics for the season.
Fox-Pitt’s only mistake in an attractive test was a fluffed first flying change which scored fours. “I’m delighted with Pimms; that’s the first time he’s done that test in an arena – there’s four flying changes and that’s a big step up,” said the world number two. “He’s a lovely horse to ride on the flat; he loves showing off.”
Fox-Pitt took on the ride on Fernhill Pimms, an 11-year-old by Ard VDL Douglas, in 2013. The horse was produced in Ireland by Portuguese rider Duarte Seabra for Carol Gee, who owns him with Catherine Witt. Fox-Pitt won the prestigious young horse CIC3* at Blenheim in 2013 on the bay gelding and finished fifth at Bramham CCI3* (GBR) this year.
In contrast, Australia’s Sam Griffiths, who is lying third on Happy Times with a score of 36.8, has the security of knowing he is on one of the most experienced horses in the sport, let alone at Burghley. The 16-year-old by Heraldik, also the damsire of Michael Jung’s La Biosthetique Sam, has been placed five times at Burghley.
“He’s always very consistent on the flat, but he really pulled out the stops today,” said Griffiths, who is also equal 14th on his 2013 Badminton winner Paulank Brockagh.
Griffiths’ compatriot Andrew Hoy has now slipped a couple of places to fourth on Rutherglen, with just a 0.9 penalty ahead of another hugely experienced combination, Oliver Townend (GBR) and the 16-year-old Armada. They brought Friday afternoon to an exciting conclusion when scoring 38.7.
“I’ll be a stone lighter this time tomorrow,” Townend joked, a reference to his being the only rider to have three horses. “The first one [Dromgurrihy Blue, currently lying 24th] is an unknown quantity at this level and distance; the second [Samuel Thomas ll, equal 53rd] is only a baby but I love riding him; and everyone knows Armada.”
Tim Price (NZL), riding the Irish Sport Horse gelding Ringwood Sky Boy, is in sixth place; he will be aiming for a first placing at his fourth attempt at Burghley.
Michael Jung (GER) on his second horse, La Biosthetique Sam, is sharing seventh place with another German first-timer at Burghley, 20-year-old Niklas Bschorer on Tom Tom Go 3, on the healthy score of 38.7.
Frenchman Cedric Lyard is ninth on Cadeau du Roi ahead of British first-timer Rosalind Canter (Allstar B), 10th, who is hanging on to her spot ahead of a cluster of experienced antipodeans including five-time Burghley winner Mark Todd, equal 12th on Leonidas ll.
Riders are viewing Captain Mark Phillips’s cross-country course, which runs in a reverse direction to usual, with plenty of respect and a bit of trepidation. “It’s tough out there,” commented Sam Griffiths. “You need a power jumper with some blood. This is a course that will find out any weaknesses.”
Fox-Pitt, who unusually only has one horse to ride this year, will have to wait until near the end of the cross-country tomorrow for his turn to run, said he plans to take all the straight routes. “Mark has been very brave. Everyone will have their work cut out because we’re all starting from a blank sheet with the different direction. The first three fences are the only nice ones! I think Pimms is ready for it. I just want him to rise to the challenge and go well.”
“I’ll be watching the early riders with interest. I think the ground could be a little soft and patchy in places, so it’ll be useful to see how the horses run over it.
“I’m not expecting him to necessarily be inside the time; I’ll be thrilled with him if he comes home happy and clear.”
First-time Rosalind Canter, who is 10th on Allstar B, was expecting a challenge come Saturday. “It’s a really big cross-country course and a lot of people who have been round here before are saying it’s the biggest its ever been.
“Certainly Saturday will be a new day. I just hope we can come back in one piece,” Canter said.
“He’s a big horse and he’s got a big jump, but neither of us have jumped at this level before, so it’s a step into the unknown.
“It’s the first time I’ve had to get a horse this fit, so on the day is when I’ll find out if I’ve done the job.
“I’ve been coming to Burghley for nearly 20 years to spectate so to get here and compete is really exciting.”
Oliver Townend will be first out onto the course at 11am on Saturday on Dromgurrihy Blue.
• Ireland’s Joseph Murphy will reroute to the European Championships after withdrawing Sportsfield Othello from Burghley after completing the dressage phase on a score of 47.
Eventing High Performance Manager Nick Turner announced that Murphy will be stepping into Aoife Clark’s place at the Europeans at Blair Castle as her mount, the New Zealand bred thoroughbred Vaguely North, suffered a minor knock at training.
Speaking about the change Turner said: “It has been a difficult decision to make but as the championships are due to start Wednesday of next week I felt there was not enough time to give Vaguely North the time he needs without missing out on valuable training in the days leading up to the event.”
The European Eventing Championships take place in Blair Castle next week with the first horse inspection taking place on Wednesday, September 9.
Additional reporting: Mike Dunne, Marios Papaloizou
Results after Dressage
1= William Fox-Pitt/Fernhill Pimms (GBR) 34.2
1= Michael Jung/FisherRocana FST (GER) 34.2
3 Sam Griffiths/Happy Times (AUS) 36.8
4 Andrew Hoy/Rutherglen (AUS) 37.8
5 Oliver Townend/Armada (GBR) 38.7
6 Tim Price/Ringwood Sky Boy (NZL) 38.7
7= Niklas Bschorer/Tom Tom Go 3 (GER) 39.2
7= Michael Jung/La Biosthetique Sam (GER) 39.2
9 Cedric Lyard/Cadeau du Roi (FRA) 39.6
10 Rosalind Canter/Allstar B (GBR) 40.2
Images below © Mike Bain