Sept. 1, Stamford, England
Great Britain’s William Fox-Pitt is on top again, this time at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (England), the second-last leg of the HSBC FEI Classics, where he led after the first day of dressage on a mark of 39.7.
Fox-Pitt posted the only sub-40 mark of Day 1 on his first ride, Catherine Witt’s 11-year-old Parklane Hawk, winner of the Blenheim CCI*** (England) last year.
The British pair led New Zealand’s Andrew Nicholson and the attractive grey Avebury by 2.3 penalties. Elizabeth Power of Ireland and the ex-racehorse Kilpatrick River, back in action after their fall at Badminton (England) in May, finished third ahead of Britain’s Mary King and Apache Sauce.
Boyd Martin was the highest-placed U.S. rider on the first day with Neville Bardos, scoring 49.7 to land in 12th.
Fox-Pitt, who was penalized for one error of course—halting at the wrong marker—described scoring in the 30s as a “psychological boost.”
He said of the New Zealand-bred Thoroughbred by Grosvenor: “He has a superb brain and a lovely trot. He’s all the things you dream about in a horse.”
Fox-Pitt, Nicholson and King, who have decades of experience at Burghley between them, are viewing with interest the new-look of the cross-country course, designed by Mark Phillips to have a more traditional look in honor of the event’s 50th birthday.
“It’s a big, attacking course. It feels quite long, but it’s flowing, which should help riders get into a rhythm,” said Fox-Pitt, a five-time Burghley winner.
Nicholson, the winner in 1995 and 2000, commented: “The first part is quite intense with some difficult lines, and then it’s a lot of big, plain fences. I think the key will be working out where to save energy. It’s a good change of style, and I hope we’ll all enjoy it.”
For Martin, simply being at Burghley was a triumph. Neville Bardos barely survived a barn fire in May that killed six other horses and left him with severe smoke inhalation.
"I was pleased to get here and make it one-third of the way around so far," said Martin. "That's his weakest phase of the three, and we got through it close to our best."
William Coleman looked like he was ready for a top placing with Jim Wildasin's Twizzel after spending the summer in England utilizing his Land Rover Competition and Training Grant. However, the 15-year-old Westphalian went inexplicably lame moments before he went in the ring. Coleman withdrew, and Twizzel is being evaluated.
The final U.S. pair to compete on the first day was Colleen Rutledge. Riding in only her second CCI****, Rutledge rode Shiraz to a score of 63.7. The 13-year-old American Thoroughbred coped admirably with the electric atmosphere that is the Burghley main arena.
Follow the action and get live results on www.burghley-horse.co.uk.
Results after first day of dressage:
1. William Fox-Pitt/Parklane Hawk (GBR) 39.7 penalties
2. Andrew Nicholson/Avebury (NZL) 42.0
3. Elizabeth Power/Kilpatrick River (IRL) 43.3
4. Mary King/Apache Sauce (GBR) 44.8
5. Laurence Hunt/Pheobus (GBR) 45.3
6. Sam Griffiths/Happy Times (AUS) 45.5
7. Gaby Cooke/Sir Roscoe (GBR) 46.3
8. Oliver Townend/Neo du Breuil (GBR) 46.7
9. Fiona Hobby/Roma M.L. (GBR) 48.0
10. James Robinson/Comanche (GBR) 48.8