Thursday, May. 23, 2024

Fox-Pitt Records One-Two Finish At Burghley

His fifth win comes aboard Tamarillo, with Ballincoola right behind.

William Fox-Pitt made history several times over when winning a soggy Burghley CCI**** on Tamarillo. This was the gutsy bay’s first attempt at the Land Rover Trophy, for in previous years he has usually had a fall engagement on the British championship team, and he won by a 7.2-penalty margin, ahead of his stablemate, Ballincoola, his 2007 victor.
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His fifth win comes aboard Tamarillo, with Ballincoola right behind.

William Fox-Pitt made history several times over when winning a soggy Burghley CCI**** on Tamarillo. This was the gutsy bay’s first attempt at the Land Rover Trophy, for in previous years he has usually had a fall engagement on the British championship team, and he won by a 7.2-penalty margin, ahead of his stablemate, Ballincoola, his 2007 victor.

Apart from joining only Ginny Elliott and Mark Todd in the roll-call of five-time winners, Fox-Pitt also became one of only three (with Todd and Blyth Tait) to have filled first and second places here. Fox-Pitt has also surged so far ahead in the HSBC/FEI Classics leaderboard (with 40 points, 25 ahead of Phillip Dutton) that he is already winner of the inaugural series prize of $150,000.

With the overnight withdrawal of second-placed Dutton, whose mount Woodburn was suffering a foot problem, the great British four-star in Stamford, England, ended up as “the William and Mary show,” with Mary King third and fourth with Imperial Cavalier and Apache Sauce, Sept. 4-7.

The event suffered from the most relentless rain in living memory across Britain—which went on to cause the cancellation of Blenheim CCI*** the following weekend—and only 30 of the 74 starters completed. The well-drained cross-country track, benefiting from the installation of sophisticated permanent drainage some years ago, held up acceptably, but the huge swathes of the public areas and the stables compound were a morass. Two huge tractors hitched together failed to dislodge some horse transporters at the end of the event.

Even Fox-Pitt feared that cancellation was an option on the Friday evening and had made exploratory phone calls about entries for the Pau CCI**** (France), Oct. 22-26.

However, the cross-country went ahead, giving Fox-Pitt the opportunity to remind selectors that Tamarillo had been his preferred choice for Hong Kong.

“At 16, Tam’s nearing the end of his career, and I dreaded making a mistake at his first Burghley. In the end, I couldn’t have asked for things to go any better,“ he said. “The top four places were filled by two riders who have been away in Hong Kong for most of the past month, on horses who haven’t run for seven weeks. It shows how well horses cope with not competing and the importance of a strong back-up team, who should take much of the credit for our results.”

King was pleased that her Olympic reserve Imperial Cavalier had redeemed himself for a silly run-out at Badminton (England) in May. “I feel very honored to have two in the top four, and the money is also very welcome,” she said. “I have always lived away from the yard. At last we are building a house there, and so a lot of cash is needed for that!”

The Edge In Dressage

On Friday, Ruth Edge danced into the lead, as she so often does, this time with Mr Dumbledore on 33.7, remaining 6 marks ahead of second-ranked Lucy Wiegersma and Shaabrak.

Edge rides Grand Prix dressage in her own right, and ground jury president Brian Ross said that he wished, in hindsight, that he had given her some 10s. Edge commented: “He’s such a fabulous horse in the arena. He pricks his ears and grows as he trots in.”

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Tamarillo went into third, possibly hampered by driving rain and some sodden going in the arena, the centerline rendered to little more than a trough.

No other competitiors scored in the 30s. Andrew Hoy was fairly outspoken about the 41.9 he was awarded on Moonfleet, noting that he had been awarded 7 and 4 for the same movement. This was by no means the most extreme marking. Andrew Nicholson’s test on Muschamp Impala, a former ride of Edge, was notable for accruing a 1 and a 9, while Polly Stockton and Kilcluny got a 7 and a 2 for the same movement.

There was consternation when Zara Phillips could not be spotted in the collecting area minutes before her second test, but this was a deliberate new tactic; she now merely longes the willful Ardfield Magic Star and gets on him literally at the last moment. This time it worked—he did his best test ever, to finish 22nd on 54.8. At Badminton, he had been second to last.

No More Mushrooms

Phillips failed to complete with either of her rides. Glenbuck, who finished Badminton looking tired, ran out of puff again and was retired midway. He now heads for the Pau CCI****.

Ardfield Magic Star was one of the victims of bottomless going around the mushrooms (Coutts Curve, fence 25-26) at the end of the day, falling when 5 seconds up on the clock. “I am just so frustrated as he was awesome and did not deserve this. I am trying not to think that we could have been in the top six after cross-country,” Phillips said.

None the worse for his spill, Ardfield Magic Star could well give Phillips her first ride round Rolex Kentucky next spring.

Riders have never embraced the mushrooms, some narrow, offset timber-carved mounds toward the end of the course, and this year’s manifestation saw five falls. Course designer Capt. Mark Phillips said the mushrooms will not appear again. His daughter Zara has requested that they be taken to Gatcombe Park and shredded into horse bedding so that they finish their life as manure.

Weather Takes A Toll

As the rain battered down, news came on Friday night of changes to the course. Omissions included the second part of the long route at the Leaf Pit (fence 3), the Hunting Hedge (10), the first element of the Land Rover Dairy Farm (17), and the back rail came out of the “out ” of Capability’s Classic (fence 22, formerly known as Capability’s Cutting). Even so, many were not convinced, and 11 withdrew before the start of cross-country.

Retiring In Style

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After completing six Burghleys with William Fox-Pitt, Ballincoola is being passed on to young rider Fergus Payne, son of Michael Payne who jointly owns the horse with Judith Skinner.

“It was always going to be an emotional week with ‘Max’ as he has been a valuable part of our yard for a long time. I wish Fergus lots of fun,” said Fox-Pitt.

Meanwhile, Dan Jocelyn’s New Zealand team stalwart Silence retired from the sport with another feisty clear for 15th place. In the past year, 18-year-old “Gus” has indicated he is out of love with the dressage, but his jumping was once more a treat. He was greeted in the “D” box for the last time by Dan’s clearly emotional wife, Tanya.

At first it looked as if their fears were misplaced as trailblazer Rosie Thomas and Barry’s Best galloped through all the direct routes to finish inside the time for the second year. Sadly, though, it was not as unforgiving as Thomas’ round suggested, and as the day progressed the scoreboard was littered with penalties against one of the most stellar “casualty” lists ever seen at this level.

Joe Meyer and Ease On Fire faulted at Discovery Valley, an angled line over a ditch (fences 6-8), which caught out a further 11 including Harry Meade (Birthday Night), Jeanette Brakewell (Chill Out Bob) and Polly Stockton. British Olympic team bronze medalist Daisy Dick retired after Hope Street fell backwards into the ditch, while Matt Ryan lost the advantage of his seventh place overnight when Bonza Puzzle uncharacteristically ducked out at the final element. Edge suffered the worst insult; Mr Dumbledore’s run-out at the brush here looked pretty un-genuine.

Meyer’s fellow Kiwi Andrew Nicholson had a near miss on Muschamp Impala at the Trout Hatchery and then parted company when the horse got stuck in the final combination in the main arena. Meyer had a nasty fall with second ride Black Andy, who tripped over the “goose” in the water. Meyer, who will soon become a father for the first time, appeared momentarily trapped under the horse, but mercifully both walked away.

Moonfleet and Shaabrak ran out at the second part of Capability’s Classic. After Shaabrak’s fabulous Badminton performance and withdrawal through injury from the British Olympic squad, many had hoped it was Wiegersma’s “turn” at Burghley, reinforced by their dressage mark of 39.1. But it was not to be, and Shaabrak is among a large number of Burghley “refugees” who can reasonably be expected to inflate the field at Pau.

While some luminaries capitulated, others made light of the challenge, most notably Dutton. Woodburn’s dressage of 50 would not have appeared overly competitive in normal circumstances, but here it was a trifle. Their clear inside the time—one of only three—elevated them from 15th to second overnight, between Tamarillo and Ballincoola. King lay fourth and fifth, with Frenchman Rodolphe Scherer sixth with the 18-year-old Fairfax (the former ride of owner Heidi Antikatzides of Greece, now the mother of a baby son).

Two were eliminated at the final horse inspection, and the field for show jumping was further depleted by the overnight withdrawal of five, including Woodburn. Although the latter took some pressure off Tamarillo, giving him three fences in hand, Sunday was not going to be an easy ride for anyone on tired horses.

Indeed, there were only two clears over what some thought was an overly long track in the circumstances: Nicola Wilson’s Opposition Buzz and, unsurprisingly, Clea Phillips’ Lead The Way, who has a parallel career as a show jumper on the British national circuit.

Fox-Pitt and King jumped out of order on their first rides, and as soon as Imperial Cavalier accrued 4 penalties, Fox-Pitt knew he had won on one horse or the other. He remarked, “I thought, surely Tam won’t have four down, and if he does, never mind!” In fact he had two, and indeed no one minded.

Most useful prize went to the 15-hand Little Tiger, 16th with Phoebe Buckley, who won an award for being the best mare. Little Tiger already has a yearling filly by embryo transfer and won a voucher for a further two! 

Pippa Cuckson

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