Fox Pitt ends cross-country in gold position

WILLIAM Fox-Pitt and the stallion Chilli Morning remain at the head of the individual WEG Eventing leaderboard at the conclusion of a thrilling day of cross-country action at Le Pin National Stud.

Fox Pitt ends cross-country in gold position
© PSV Photos

Watching this morning did not make good viewing,” said Fox-Pitt, who won individual silver at the last World Equestrian Games. “Every line and stride pattern we thought would work just wasn’t [working], so I just went out and rode what I had.”

All eyes were on dressage leader Sandra Auffarth and Opgun Louvo, who were the last to negotiate Pierre Michelet’s taxing cross-country course, and although they looked to be on target for a fast clear round, like so many before them, the chestnut gelding ran out of steam over the final fences.

Auffarth is now in second place, having added 16.8 faults for time. She is poised just 0.3 of a penalty in front of her teammate Michael Jung (Fischerrocana FST), who is dangerously close to pole position and to defending his World Champion’s title. The leader Fox-Pitt has no room for error in the show jumping. In fact, the top five are so closely bunched that none can afford a pole down tomorrow.

New Zealand individual Jonelle Price put up the class round of the competition with the flying black mare Classic Moet, who stopped the clock just 10sec over the 10min 30sec optimum. Her mere four faults — by far the fastest round of the day —sees her just outside the medal placings in fourth on the individual roster.   

I didn’t go out with too much of a plan. I have only had the mare for a few months and she has only done one other four-star [Luhmuhlen], which wasn’t a patch on this,” said Price. “I just wanted to see how she responded and make my plan from there but she just kept answering the questions. There wasn’t one point where I thought she wasn’t going to stand up after a jump.”

Price lies on the same score as the best placed New Zealand team member, Andrew Nicholson, but he occupies fifth position with Nereo as the great chestnut crossed the finish line further from the 10min 30sec cross-country optimum.  

Nicholson confessed to a ‘sticky’ moment on the track, at the fourth last fence.

It was the smallest fence on the course,” said Nicholson. “I just didn’t get a good stride to it. It says something about the horse that he got himself out of it."

Nereo is the most experienced horse here and even he struggled,” added the Kiwi. “He’s not the ideal sort for deep ground anyway but this is the worst ground I’ve ever ridden on. It makes wet spring going in England look nice. He’s a big, powerful horse that prefers the top of the ground so I’m very proud of him.”

Karin Donckers, seventh after the dressage, coaxed a copybook clear round from her nine-year-old Belgian Warmblood Fletcha Van’t Verahof to rise one slot on the leaderboard. The bay gelding, who is out of a Thoroughbred mare, added just 13.6 time faults to slot in front of German individual Andreas Ostholt (So Is Et), seventh.

The best of the French, Maxime Livio and Qalao Des Mers gave the vocal 50,000 strong crowd, many of them locals from this lovely region of Normandy, a real boost when they galloped through the finish line with only 13.2 time faults to add for eighth place after two phases.

“I’m very happy because my horse is making such progress in the competition,” said Livio who was contesting his first four-star.

Boyd Martin was easily the best of the luckless Americans in ninth with his relatively new acquisition Shamwari 4.

Martin said: “I came here expecting the toughest competition in the world and I got it. But I’m well mounted. Shamwari has the heart the size of Ayers Rock. He is also as honest as the day is long. If I could point him in the right direction I knew that he would try his hardest to get through the flags.”

Germany occupies the top spot

Germany is in gold medal position with Auffarth’s, Jung’s and Ingrid Klimke’s scores all counting. The latter’s round with FRH Escada JS, however, was less than tidy in places and the pair relinquished their fifth dressage placing and have now slipped to 21st.

Britain has four cross-country jumping clears in the clubhouse and has risen into silver position in the team standings, Tina Cook (De Novo News), 14th, and Zara Phillips and High Kingdom, 15th, the next best of the Brits after Fox-Pitt.  Australia is in bronze position, their best team rider Paul Tapner currently 13th with the grey Kilronan.

I’ve never ridden so slowly at a four-star before but there was extra pressure as there were only three of us so safe clears were team orders,” said Tapner referring to the withdrawal of fourth team horse TS Jamaimo after a colic attack. “Kilronan is such a trooper and he just keeps galloping even when he’s tired.”

Several nations have crashed out of the contest, including the favoured Kiwis.

After Mark Todd’s fall their bad luck continued when Jock Paget signalled retirement after Clifton Promise glanced off the imposing corner at fence 5. Tim Price’s Wesko had already been stopped by the ground jury two fences from home. Kiwi individual Lucy Jackson crashed up the step at the influential final water, here horse Willy Do slamming into the narrow wooden fish and necessitating a hold on course for fence repair.

The USA, too, has lost its quartet, Buck Davidson and Phillip Dutton (Trading Aces) both retiring on course, although Boyd Martin continues to fly the Stars and Stripes for his nation in the individual contest. He is currently lying ninth with the former Ludwig Svennerstal ride Shamwari 4.

The Swedes, too, no longer field a team and the action was held for 20 minutes as medics attended to Anna Hilton after a fall from Matrix W.

Nine teams do remain in the contest, however. All horses will be trotted up at Le Pin National Stud before they are transported to d’Ornano Stadium for the afternoon’s show jumping session.

Top 5 results (individual)

  1. William Fox-Pitt (GBR)/ Chilli Morning – 50.3
  2. Sandra Auffarth (GER)/ Opgun Louvo – 52.0
  3. Michael Jung (GER)/ Fischerrocana FST – 52.3
  4. Jonelle Price (NZL)/ Classic Moet – 52.5
  5. Andrew Nicholson (NZL)/ Nereo – 52.5

Top 5 results (team)

  1. Germany – 177.9
  2. Great Britain – 1186.8
  3. Australia – 226.8
  4. France – 235.5
  5. Netherlands – 238.8
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