Monday, Apr. 15, 2024

Parkmore Ed Surprises Fox-Pitt With Burghley Win

The British rider joins an elite group of four-time winners at one of the world’s most prestigious events.

An American-owned horse was the surprise winner of the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, Aug. 30-Sept. 2 in Stamford, Lincolnshire, England, albeit in the hands of the master British horseman, William Fox-Pitt.


The British rider joins an elite group of four-time winners at one of the world’s most prestigious events.

An American-owned horse was the surprise winner of the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, Aug. 30-Sept. 2 in Stamford, Lincolnshire, England, albeit in the hands of the master British horseman, William Fox-Pitt.

Michigan-born Philip Adkins has competed Park-more Ed himself and since 2004 has only sent the 14-year-old to Fox-Pitt for occasional three-day events.

But despite a relatively short prep, the horse answered every question at what was widely regarded as the toughest track anywhere in 2007. As well as winning the $100,586 purse and Land Rover Trophy, Parkmore Ed put Fox-Pitt on the elite list of four-time winners.

Now steps will be taken to enable the horse to represent the United Kingdom: Fox-Pitt favors Parkmore Ed for Hong Kong, ahead of Tamarillo and even Ballincoola, winner at Burghley in 2005 and fifth this year. Adkins also admitted that the day to hand over the reins has finally arrived.

“I have always liked riding Ed, but it’s been a bit like being given an ice cream and then only allowed one mouthful,” said Fox-Pitt. “I wondered if he had come here a little too soon, but I have quickly discovered that I am on a horse that really wants to jump a clear round.”

Britain’s Polly Stockton was second, bouncing back from a lackluster spring with Tom Quigley, and third was Andrew Hoy on Master Monarch, with cross-country leader Andrew Nicholson dropping to fourth on Lord Killinghurst after an influential show jumping round.

Best of the U.S. contingent was Bruce Davidson on Jam, who rose to 10th and won the best mare’s prize with one of two premium clear rounds on Sunday.

Will Faudree and Antigua made the highest rise after cross-country, 48 places from 64th to 18th, and finished 21st overall.

Davidson, who won the first of his world titles here with Irish Cap in 1974, has ridden Burghley 13 times and received a rapturous welcome from the crowd, who have always appreciated his charm and superlative horsemanship.

Although this was probably his last Burghley, Davidson never says never. “I thought I’d try a short-format Burghley before I give up, but I have not come to an informed opinion about whether I prefer it to the long-format Burghley! I may need to return,” he said.

A Top Field

Despite the proximity of the European Championships and the new four-star opportunity in Pau, France, there was a top-class field of 73.

The veteran Lord Killing-hurst, third here three times, led after the first day’s dressage, the only horse breaking the 40-penalty barrier with 39.6.

Parkmore Ed was second, and New Zealander Caroline Powell third with Lenamore, fifth here in 2005.
On Friday, no one touched the leaders until late morning when Master Monarch eased into fourth. “This was undoubtedly the test of his life, and I think I have ridden him better too,” Hoy observed.

Hoy was emotional that the horse had even reached Burghley. Four days before Badminton (England) in May, he succumbed to a mystery cervical cord problem, and his supporters believed he wouldn’t run again.

“It was heartbreaking to watch,” said Hoy. “He couldn’t put one foot in front of the other without first feeling out the ground. It’s only thanks to the vets and the fantastic care of [head girl] Karen Hughes that we got him back. We will never know what caused it, though it is similar to a kind of rye grass staggers, or
poisoning, sometimes seen in Australia.”

Bigger Than Ever

On near-perfect going, the Burghley cross-country course was deemed the biggest and most technical yet, not just because of the jumping tests, but because the climbs and undulations needed total reassessment. Mark Phillips ran the track counterclockwise for the first time in years. The first half appeared more challenging, though those who switched to cruise control in the second half paid the price.

Andrew Nicholson, who finished fourth, said: “The first half is big and wide, and there are plenty of places where it will be easy to have a run-out. The second half is a bit smaller, but that can be just as difficult, as you have to keep focused.”

The re-direction allowed another jumping effort between the start and the traditional first big test, the Leaf Pit (fence 4), important in the short-format era. This time there was a choice of two “skinny” houses at the foot, and, not surprisingly, 12 horses ran past them.

The next big test was Discovery Valley, with a scalloped hedge to a ditch and then a turn to a jump out, though only four faulted here. There was more difficulty than anticipated at the Invesco Options, fence 8, where many seasoned observers lamented the lost skill of riding the “coffin canter.”


A bad experience there often led to a cat-leap over the enormous, filled Double Hedge at fence 9, which several banked.

A significant early scalp at the coffin was Australia’s Sammi McLeod and Enchanted, who tipped up, while Caroline Powell and Lenamore had a surprise stop, though they were still fast enough to remain in the top 25, ahead of 11 cross-country clears.

No one overshot the potentially troublesome offset hedges in Winners Avenue (fence 20) and the Rolex corners (fence 15) were unexpectedly rideable, but the Coutts Curve—a line of mushroom-shaped narrow fences (fences 25-26) caused three falls as well as some run-outs, which baffled the course designer in view of the accuracy questions that must have been answered by anyone who got that far.

At the first Trout Hatchery, the jump in was from a previously untried spot, and the direct route necessitated an angled leap out against a facing wall to an angled brush. In fact this rode beautifully, whether taken acutely or at right angles, and the only dunking was suffered by Patris Filius on the way in.

Over in the Arena was a triple combination of two unforgiving Land Rovers either side of a raised log on a curving line. Phillips numbered these fences separately 27-29 so many riders took the chance to circle unpenalized when initial plans backfired.

But then Clayton Fredericks nudged 0.6 penalties into the lead on Nullabor, fifth at the Luhmuhlen CCI**** (Germany), and, in the eyes of the rider, a horse with potential to better his 2007 Rolex Kentucky winner Ben Along Time.

Like Hoy, Clayton appreciated the training the Australians receive from German dressage guru Harry Boldt.
Tom Quigley performed another of the day’s good tests for fifth, and first-timers Olivia Haddow, 23, and Patris Filius, a skewbald, impressed the judges, sharing seventh place with Ballincoola and Lucy Wiegersma and Shabraak. Just seven penalties separated the top 10.

Jan Byyny posted the best dressage of the U.S. squad with Task Force, in 15th place on 51.2, though an injury during exercise forced them to drop out before cross-country.

Fighting For The Lead

Time penalties for Nullabor (whose rider was nonetheless thrilled with the horse’s attitude) meant that Lord Killinghurst retained the lead set early in the day with one of only seven clears in the time, despite his occasionally stop-start approach.

“He knows only too well where he is and tried to pull himself up at the bottom of the Leaf Pit, the nearest point to the old finish line, “ said Nicholson. “There’s also a place where he was once stopped for 25 minutes, and he may remember that. But when he got to the Waterloo Rails he zoomed off again.”

Fox-Pitt was surprised to find Parkmore Ed in overnight second, with just 0.4 time penalties.

“I was very excited after completing a track like that. There were a few moments where he showed his inexperience. He was quite surprised by the Leaf Pit as suddenly the ground wasn’t there, but he came up with the right answers,” said Fox-Pitt. “The thing about Mark Phillips is that we all trust him; if he builds something, then it must be jumpable.”

Fifty horses completed cross-country, with 36 clear. Though slow, Croatians Pepo Puch and The Who went clear, becoming the first combination from the Balkans to complete at four-star level.

Of few equine casualties, it was sad to see Bonza Katoomba break down along Winners Avenue after going fluently for Matt Ryan. Andrew Nicholson’s laser sharp reactions probably saved his second ride Silbury Hill from serious injury. On an awkward line to the second Land Rover in the arena, he attempted to jump but slid back, trapping his near fore over the vehicle. To spectator applause, Nicholson was off his horse and had extricated the leg before officials could get there.

For the first three days of the competition, victory seemed more likely for Nullabor, Lord Killinghurst, Master Monarch or Tom Quigley, as it seemed unrealistic for Parkmore Ed’s “beginner’s luck” to hold. But he shone during a show jumping phase of considerable influence.

The final planks—the way back to the collecting ring—were a bugbear and only five managed to clear them, resulting in wholesale shuffling of the final rankings.

Apart from Davidson, Harry Meade, son of 1972 Olympic champion Richard Meade, posted the only other clear, with Midnight Dazzler, a former ride of Fox-Pitt. Harry was the only rider to finish on his dressage score, in eighth, and claimed a number of prizes for the under 25s, in which category he remains eligible next year.

Two rails down for Lord Killinghurst dropped him to fourth, and one down secured second for Polly Stockton, who was thrilled to have “got a grip” after Badminton, when she had been unsure whether or not to run and hence rode in an uncommitted way.

Frenchman Rodolphe Scherer consolidated his partnership with the former rides of Greek Olympian Heidi Antikatzides. Fairfax was ninth, and Scherer was rewarded with a second top-20 placing for his gutsy trailblazing on Good Enough.

Phillips Works With A New Star

Although the syndicate that owns him were simply hoping for a solid performance, there was inevitable media excitement about Ardfield Magic Star, Zara Phillips’ “new” ride, who finished 24th.


In fact, the 10-year-old Irish-bred by Hallodri has been with Phillips, the reigning World Champion and daughter of Princess Anne and Capt. Mark Phillips, for four years, but progress has been erratic. Though he cruised round his first CCI*** in Germany two years ago, last fall the pair fell at Boekelo (the Netherlands) and Pau (France).

Phillips explained that “Pebbles” is “talented but finds it hard to trust,” and she nearly sold him during the winter.

They turned the corner this year, aided by the switch to a double bridle for jumping. There is still some way to go before he attains a competitive dressage score—he was 23rd, on 54 penalties—but Pebbles jumped clear round at Luhmuhlen CCI**** (Germany) and now Burgh-ley. Capt. Phillips favors Rolex Kentucky over Badminton (England) for his spring 2008 target.

They suffered just one anxious moment when, having jumped the quick route at the mushrooms, Pebbles spotted the option and lined up for that too, taking out the flag as Phillips tried to redirect him.

“He always has to do something, but I am very pleased,” said Zara. “He coped with the enormity of it all and has loads of scope. He does fight—I feel I need physiotherapy on my arms—but at least it’s in the right direction.”

Kirsten Schmolze had a slow clear with 37.2 time penalties on Cavaldi and finished 30th, though Jane Sleeper (UN) ran-out at the Trout Hatchery, and Dornin Anne North (Lion Display) had three stops and 21 penalties in the show jumping, but did complete.

Kirsten Bond and Fleeceworks Blackout were among the fallers at the mushrooms, while Sara Mittleider and El Primero retired half way.

While Zara Phillips had a good Burghley in the run-up to her European title defense, the two other Great Britain team riders with Burghley runners did not escape glitch-free.

Mary King on Cashel Bay (18th after dressage) ran out at the straight option at the Leaf Pit. King blamed herself for overdoing her trademark lean-back, which may have encouraged the horse to over-jump.

Consequently, on her next ride, Apache Sauce, she sat more forward, causing the relative newcomer to dwell a little. But after this blip the white-faced bay visibly grew in confidence, for eventual 17th place.

More chastened was Oliver Townend, who brought two four-star first timers. Both anchored by 60-something dressage scores, Waterbeck Basil tipped up at the mushroom combination while Saxon Cross crashed out at the Rolex corners.

However, Townend’s girlfriend, Piggy French, went clear for 4 time penalties with Paris, the former ride of Kelli Temple, acquired three months ago.

U.S. Roots

Parkmore Ed’s owner is a highly successful businessman. Born in Michigan, Adkins grew up in New York City and ran major companies in Japan and Tasmania before moving to the United Kingdom seven years ago. He now commutes as CEO of a Norwegian company that moves offshore oil rigs.

A successful rower in his college days, Adkins has always been appreciative of elite sport, and, living just 10 miles from Burghley, he got interested in eventing and took up riding. He sought the best help. He is trained by the 1986 world champion, Ginny Elliot (née Leng), and also did his research before asking Fox-Pitt—“the best rider in the world”—to compete Ed at Bramham (England) in 2004 and Blenheim (England) last year. Ed returned to Fox-Pitt in June for the build up to Burghley.

“I knew he was very, very good when I first sat on him,” said Adkins. “I truly believe there’s more still to come. In a year he could be doing a 30s dressage test—an Olympic medal mark.”

More pertinently, Parkmore Ed’s accuracy in the show jumping will be influential when Fox-Pitt chooses his Olympic ride, as there are two rounds on the final day.

Adkins can console himself with riding Ed’s younger full-brother, Parkmore Reper-charge. “Repercharge is rowing parlance for second chance,” said Adkins. “And when I have ridden this one for a while, William can have him for 2012.”

Not for the first time, Fox-Pitt and Nicholson were battling out the top prizes at a major three-day event, but there was extra color this time for their long-standing personal feud, finally a public issue.

Fox-Pitt is now happily married to TV horseracing presenter Alice Plunkett, but he chose Burghley for the high-profile launch of his autobiography, which charts at length his first wife Wiggy’s affair with Nicholson that ended the marriage.

The two can hardly bear to share a warm-up arena, let alone a podium, and would have had to sit together at the post-dressage press conference, had they not been excused on the grounds that they had already discussed their tests with individual reporters. This left dressage leader Clayton Fredericks to front the session alone, but he quickly found the funny side: “The umpire is here, all we need are the boxers!” he quipped.

Pippa Cuckson




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