Aiken, S.C.—March 2
The $50,000 LiftMaster Grand-Prix Eventing Invitational is set to go cross-country over the Capt. Mark Phillips-designed track at 2:30 p.m. today. Top British event rider William Fox-Pitt addressed a group of spectators and media a few hours before the first horse on course with his thoughts on the track and what the day’s competition would hold.
“This is a competition; it’s an eventing competition, but it is a little bit of a gimmick,” Fox-Pitt said. “You call it eventing, but a showcase event is very different than a good old Kentucky Horse Park event; it’s different and requires a different animal.
“The horses that will win this I would say probably wouldn’t have a chance at the horse park, and the Kentucky Horse Park winners wouldn’t have a chance here,” Fox-Pitt continued. “So it’s about horses for courses and bringing horses here who are suited for this type of thing.”
The course is about two miles in length and just over four minutes for the time allowed, but Fox-Pitt doesn’t think riders should underestimate the abbreviated format.
“It’s not a long way, but it’s going to be intense; they’re going to finish quite puffed,” Fox-Pitt said. “They’re not going to get into much of a rhythm. Rhythm is not going to be on the agenda; it’s not going to be happening. Maybe it won’t be looking very easy or pretty; it might be looking quite frantic and manic, but it will be good viewing, and it will be good to see how different horses go.”
Liz Halliday-Sharp leads after dressage and show jumping aboard Fernhill By Night, but Fox-Pitt thinks the course could shake up the leaderboard.
“I think a lot are not going to make the time. I have no idea if I’m going to make it,” Fox Pitt said with a laugh.
Fox-Pitt is catch riding Sandro’s Star, who’s typically ridden by Chris Talley. “On a horse I don’t know, if I’m in doubt I’m going to pull the reins aren’t I?” he said. “I’m not going to say, ‘Oh go on; let’s just see what happens.’
“So I think it will be interesting, and I think Liz Halliday is on a very good experienced horse, but how quick is it?” Fox-Pitt continued. “My money is on someone on a bit more of a racey type. But who knows. She’s got a bit in hand, so we’ll see how the day plays out.”
While a showcase is not the traditional sport of eventing Fox-Pitt made his name in, he sees the sport filling a different niche for the industry.
“It’s very exciting prize money—that’s probably why we’re all here—but it’s not all about the money. I think it’s also about producing horses for the future,” Fox Pitt said. “And this kind of competition is coming into our sport now, I think you look at teams of horses that people have, and people are going to have horses that can do this kind of thing and horses that can do the Kentucky kind of thing, and they’re not necessarily the same animals.”
Take a look at the fences riders will tackle starting at 2:30 p.m. today.