Lucinda Fredericks captured public imagination with her emotional and desperately hard-fought first four-star win at the Land Rover Burghley CCI****, Sept. 7-10 in Stamford, England. It did, however, come at the expense of her compatriot Andrew Hoy, who was agonizingly close to becoming the second rider to win the $250,000 Rolex Grand Slam of eventing’s majors (Burghley, Bad-minton and Kentucky).
The two couples, the Frederickses (Clayton and Lucinda) and Hoys (Andrew and Bettina), dominated the dressage, occupying the first four places between them. This caused much banter about how marital relations would be come Saturday night when the pressure was on, but then Bettina (lying third) and Clayton (fourth) both fell away on the cross-country, leaving their spouses to battle it out center stage.
Andrew, riding his Badminton CCI**** (England) winner Moonfleet, led from the start and had a show jumping rail advantage over Lucinda, plus, for good measure, he was third on Mr Pracatan. Surely he had the dollars–and watch–in the bag, equalling Pippa Funnell’s historic achievement of 2003.
But, to a stunned silence, his two horses hit six rails between them, while Lucinda’s tiny little mare Headley Britannia–the first mare to win the event in 33 years–bounded over Di Boddy’s ingenius track like an irrepressible rubber ball. Lucinda couldn’t help punching the air in anticipation, and, minutes later, it was all over.
“I wouldn’t wish this on anyone,” were Lucinda’s first words, as Andrew’s paycheck of $250,000 slipped away amid a sickening clatter of poles. “But this has been my week. I was devastated not to be selected at the World Games because my mare deserved her run there. All I wanted to do was make it up to her.”
Burghley is normally the preserve of British and New Zealand riders, but this time the scoreboard was covered with an embarrassment of Australian flags. Lucinda has represented her husband’s country for four years; her ecstatic victory lap with the Australian flag hoisted said it all–six Aussie riders in the top 10.
Australian Shane Rose had re-routed from a disappointing World Games, where he got no further than the 12th fence, and finished third on the ex-racehorse All Luck. The move flew against the advice of his mentor Wayne Roycroft, but with just 0.4 of a cross-country time penalty to add, he emerged the rider to finish nearest his dressage score all weekend and had the ride of a lifetime.
“We didn’t have a bad stride,” said Rose, another rider who has struggled–both with serious illness and with horrific facial injuries after a horse kicked him at close quarters 18 months ago. “This is probably the best horse I’ve ridden.”
Andrew Hoy was also fifth on Mr Pracatan; and his compatriots Sam Griffiths finished eighth on Connigar Bay and triple Olympic gold medalist Matt Ryan came ninth on the trailblazer Bonza Puzzle.
No Home Advantage
Britain fielded a stellar cast, but it was the hitherto unsung Cressida Clague-Reading, 25, who emerged best, in fourth, on Carousel Quest, a horse who was only at two-star level last year. “It’s crazy,” said Clague-Reading. “I just took each day as it came, and my horse grew and grew.”
She beat last year’s winners, William Fox-Pitt on Ballincoola, sixth, plus former World Championship silver medalist Jeanette Brakewell, seventh on the remarkable veteran Over To You, now 18, who was having his first run at Burghley, having concluded a record eight-year stint on the British team.
The equally evergreen Mary King, Burghley winner in 1996, was 10th on Cashel Bay, despite a hair-raising cross-country round in which she was frequently at the buckle-end, a consequence, apparently, of a pair of borrowed gloves with slippery palms.
Brakewell was also 12th on Burley Wood, who finished just 1 second outside the optimum cross-country time, and Andrew Nicholson was best of the New Zealanders, in 13th on his Bramham CCI*** (England) winner and WEG reserve Henry Tankerville. This horse is also by Jumbo, sire of the winning horse Headley Britannia.
If observers were surprised to see Nicholson clock 11 time penalties, it was because his principal aim was to regain the confidence of Henry Tankerville, a clean jumper, who had suffered a horrific fall on their last outing together at the Hartpury CIC*** (England) four weeks previously.
“He’s a good horse to come back from that,” said Nicholson. “I took some quite wide lines to give him a better look at the fences and regain some confidence. He was quite hard work in the home run, but he jumped immaculately, and his ears were pricked the whole time.”
The two U.S. riders, Bonnie Mosser, riding the British-bred Jenga, and Becky Holder on her Kentucky cross-country leader Courageous Comet, both gave a great account of themselves on their Burghley debuts, finishing 11th and 15th, respectively.
When Mosser, 43, was asked if Burghley was a long-held ambition now fulfilled, the former professional downhill skier answered somewhat bitterly: “Actually, the World Games was my big ambition!”
She lay fifth after dressage, with the last of the five sub-30 marks, slipped down the order with 16.4 cross-country time penalties and rose up again with just 4 show jumping penalties.
“I never thought I’d have a Burghley horse, because I know it’s the biggest event in the world. But Kentucky was huge this year, so when I walked Burghley, I thought: ‘I can do this!’ The one thing my horse does is jump the jumps,” she said.
Holder, a 37-year-old instructor from Mendota Heights, Minn., clearly enjoyed her debut. “When I rode well, the fences rewarded me,” she said. “My horse is still young for this level , and it takes a bit of time to get him used to crowds, so I lost a bit of time.”
Holder admitted she struggles with her own nerves in the show jumping–it was at Kentucky she slipped from first to 13th–and three rails down dropped her five places here, but her lovely gray horse, a former stakes winner on the flat, won many admirers in England.
An Influential Course
For the third consecutive weekend, eventing enthusiasts were treated to an enthralling competition, pivoting around a properly influential cross-country track. Only six of the 73 starters achieved the optimum time around Mark Phillips’ imposing course. Next day, none of those six achieved a clear show jumping round.
Both Andrew Hoy and Lucinda Fredericks had the unnerving experience of seeing their other halves bite the dust in spectacular fashion. Bettina Hoy was mounted on a new ride, the 17-hand skewbald Peaceful Warrior, on whom she finished 16th at Luhmuhlen CCI**** (Germany) back in June.
This time she was challenging her husband, and the rangy gelding is a good galloper and jumper who could have applied the pressure. However, a misunderstanding in the unforgiving Trout Hatchery water complex led to a dramatic dunking when the gelding went on a half-stride to a carved goose and flipped over, disappearing in a spray of muddy water.
Shortly afterward Lucinda watched her husband Clayton, the newly crowned World Championships silver medalist, land flat on his back over the influential Pedigree Poser. His horse, WP In Limbo, got underneath the third corner element, sited on a mound, and flipped over sideways.
Lucinda had her own drama to contend with. She had set her gallant little chestnut mare alight across country, and they were rapidly gaining on the rider in front, first-timer Tor Brewer who had been taking tortuous long routes and finally fell at the same point as Clayton. As officials clustered around Tor’s prone figure, they failed to notice Lucinda steaming up behind.
The crowd shrieked “Stop!” And Lucinda ground to a frustrated halt. She should have been stopped at an official point, and she knew that her timing would now be a muddle. Sure enough, finishing with her foot flat to the floor, she discovered she had been awarded 6.4 penalties and immediately lodged an objection. It was an uncharacteristic mistake by Burghley’s normally immaculate organization and, after leaving Lucinda to drum her heels for the rest of the afternoon, officials swiftly moved to inspect film footage. The hearing took a mere 10 minutes, and Lucinda’s penalties were reduced to 1.6.
At this point, the ever-gracious Andrew Hoy’s face did fall. He had allowed himself to anticipate a 10-penalty margin to beatï¿½himself. Instead he was left with just a fence in hand–and it wasn’t nearly enough.
It must have been torture for Andrew Hoy, standing in the goldfish bowl of an arena while the emotive strains of Australia Fair played for someone else. Clearly close to tears, he resorted to dignified platitudes: “I never had the money in the first place, so I haven’t lost anything. The great thing about Rolex is that they have achieved global coverage for our sport; the support I have had makes me feel humble.”
Lucinda was equally emotional. “I’m 40, and I’ve waited all this time to ride a good round at four-star level. For once, I can’t wait to see the video.”
While Lucinda enjoyed “my party,” husband Clayton was blatantly weeping. “I’m just so proud of her. She faced the most awful disappointment in the WEG, but she took a deep breath and supported me. She’s worked so hard, and now this is her day.”