There aren’t many eventers out there with more three-day wins than William Fox-Pitt of Great Britain, and he’s currently one four-star away from winning the Rolex Grand Slam. He’s agreed to a series of interviews and updates as he prepares for the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton CCI****.
You’ve had a tremendous season so far with a four-star win in Kentucky, team silver at the London Olympic Games and now a victory in the Fidelity Blenheim Palace International CCI***. How do you feel it’s gone?
It’s been a difficult season for eventing to date mainly due to the weather, so I feel personally very fortunate to have had a successful season so far. I’ve been taking some good horses to all of these events, which is, ultimately, what we aim for and also why I’ve had the success I’ve had this season.
What’s been the highlight of the season for you so far?
London 2012 is undoubtedly the highlight; nothing can compare to it. It was a unique experience that Team GB and all of the Olympians will never forget. To get a silver medal there was a fantastic feeling, and it is certainly the most memorable Olympics that I have ever competed in.
What was it like winning your 50th three-day event at Blenheim in September?
It was exciting, and I was especially relieved to have won the 50th before I’m 50! You start the season with your hopes and ambitions of what you’d like to win, but three-day events are always the difficult ones as there are lots of differing factors in play and so many things can happen. I’ve now won four three-day events so far, which makes it a very good season for me. After a not-so-good start at [the Land Rover Burghley CCI****] for Seacookie, to bounce back and go so well round Blenheim was a great feeling.
Your owners must be thrilled too?
Catherine and David Witt have had a fantastic season as well. They own three of my four winning horses—Parklane Hawk, Bay My Hero and Seacookie—so it’s been a successful time for them.
What is a typical day like for you at the moment?
There is obviously a lot of riding to do at the moment with several events coming up in the next few months. And although the Olympics has finished, being part of Team GB means that I’m still receiving some very exciting and tempting invites to various functions!
How are all of your horses as you come towards the end of the season?
You always touch wood when you get asked how your horses are faring. They have all done well, and I hope to have an equally strong team of horses for next year. However, I’ve now been in the sport long enough to know it’s unlikely to be exactly the same string of horses as the previous year; you never know how it’s going to work out.
How did you feel about your Burghley Horse Trials performances after having to pull up Seacookie on cross-country?
Going into the Burghley Horse Trials, Seacookie was slightly underprepared and hadn’t really had the necessary runs he might need, but I thought his previous experience there would make up for it. He was actually not on top of his game, which is why I pulled him up. Parklane Hawk though was fantastic even though he hadn’t had the best preparation either, so I was delighted with him to perform so well and finish third.
How are your younger horses doing such as Bay My Hero?
Bay My Hero is on good form, and he ran particularly well in the Blenheim 8- and 9-year-olds event. I’ve always really enjoyed riding him, but it’s a great feeling to know he’s coming along so well and stepping up to the mark.
Do you have any other horses coming through that are like Bay My Hero?
I don’t currently have anyone else that is at the same stage as Bay My Hero. There is a horse called Chilli Morning who is new to me and is a very exciting prospect. I also have a very nice young 8-year-old horse called Freddie Mac who is aiming for his first two-star event, so coming along very well.
What are your plans towards the Pau CCI**** in France at the end of October?
Our biggest plan in October is having our third child, which we hope will arrive between now and Pau! Aside from that and riding, I have quite a few other commitments including training and clinics, short trips to Australia (to teach a clinic during the Adelaide three-day) and Ireland (to see some horses), as well as the London 2012 medalist reception at Buckingham Palace and a celebratory Equestrian Team GB dinner at Saddlers Hall – a lot to look forward to!
Your biggest rival for the Rolex Grand Slam Prize at Badminton next year is Andrew Nicholson. Can he beat you to it?
Of course he could beat me to it, but I’m certainly not going to hand it to him on a plate. I’m sure he will go to Kentucky and hopefully so will I. Depending on the horses and the funding available from UK Sport and the Lottery I would hope to take a couple of horses over there, and I am certain he will do the same. I’m just going to have to make sure that I beat him!
Finally, what are your plans over the winter?
Well apart from interrupted sleep and inevitably lots of nappy changing…I have various trips and clinics planned, but the end of season is always a great downtime for not only the family and me, but also the horses and staff, so November and December are always quiet. It means that in January when it all starts up again everyone is fresh, excited and looking forward to the new season ahead.
William Fox-Pitt, 43, completed the Badminton CCI**** for the first time at age 20. His first Burghley win five years later established him as a regular on the senior British Team and guaranteed him a ticket to the Atlanta Olympics in 1996. He was the first British rider to become eventing’s world No. 1, a distinction he first achieved in 2002, and one he's repeated multiple times since. He's represented his country consistently over the past 15 years, winning team medals at three Olympic Games and three World Equestrian Games as well as individual silver at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. He's the only rider to have won five out of the six four-stars worldwide. (He's not yet won Adelaide in Australia.) He has won the HSBC FEI Classics, a series linking the four-stars worldwide, three times (2008, 2010 and 2012). He and his wife Alice have two sons and are expecting their third child shortly.