Fox-Pitt leads cross-country at the halfway point
Even though the pair (above) almost ground to a halt at the skinny fish in the final water (30/31), the British number one used all of his strength and experience to push the tiring chestnut stallion over this really influential obstacle.
"He was strong. He always is because he's a feisty and opinionated horse. As he's a stallion I didn't know how long he'd dig deep for me but he did the whole way. He's never been asked these questions before or over such a demanding track and ground but he was amazing," said Fox-Pitt.
The duo stopped the clock with 12.8 penalties to add, the new optimum time of 10min 30sec — recalculated after the removal of two fences and a proportion of the track — currently proving impossible to attain, although Michael Jung and Fischerrocana have come the closest after 45 horses have left the startbox.
Fischerrocana took an early lead but is now in second on the leaderboard after adding 11.6 time faults to her 40.7 dressage score.
Germany’s first rider out of the startbox scorched around the first part of the track, but the reigning World Champion’s mare began to tire at the final water and he had to nurse her home, incurring 11.6 time penalties in the process.
“It’s hard,” was Michael’s verdict. “You start too fast and then your horse gets tired, starts to slow and there is no chance of making the time. It is possible that someone might make the optimum today but I doubt it. I thought the ground would be better than it was. I was wrong.”
Ingrid Klimke, Germany’s second team rider, nearly added an expensive 20 jumping penalties to her score at the Alltech water (9) where FRH Escada JS clambered through the skinny brush entrance to the water — almost dislodging her pilot — and then nearly sailed past the subsequent skinny in the middle of the pond.
Germany, however, remains in pole position in the team contest, currently ahead of an on form Great Britain.
British pathfinder Zara Phillips, the Queen’s granddaughter, gave her supporters plenty to cheer about when she came home clear with 14.4 time faults to add. She is now fourth on the leaderboard, although her round wasn’t the tidiest, with Phillips almost ousted from the saddle at the final element at the Land Rover Water (18). She then had to carry her tiring mount through every element of the final water (30/31).
“It was tough out there but High Kingdom was a total star,” said Phillips. “He was in control and I just steered. I was way off the fence at the second water but he just kept on a straight line and kept jumping for me. It’s such an honour to be in the team and to get round clear for my country.”
British individuals Nicola Wilson and Annie Clover have risen to third on the scoreboard thanks to a relatively fast clear round, while Badminton winner Sam Griffiths, riding another gutsy mare, Paulank Brockagh, are fifth.
With an early draw they were the first to finish minus jumping penalties this morning. The Australian punched the air as he rode through the flags on his tiring mount with 18.4 to add for time.
“It’s just like riding at Badminton,” said Griffiths. “I turned my watch off half way round. I dread the riders going later. It’s a real endurance test and I wouldn’t want to ride a horse without much Thoroughbred in it today.”
America’s Buck Davidson and Ballynoe Castle RM, first out of the start box at 10am local time, retired at the final water complex, the first to give notice that this multi-faceted combination could be the competition’s ‘bogey’.
The horse had started to show signs of tiredness half a dozen fences earlier and his experienced jockey tried to nurse him home but there was no ‘petrol’ left in the tank.
When Phillip Dutton pulled up Trading Aces after the horse had clambered over the hedge at fence 25, American’s team was out of the contest.
France has just cheered a grieving Rodolphe Scherer home — sadly his father died at the start of this competition. Scherer has soared from 82nd to 10th place with a clear round and 20.4 time faults to add aboard the grey Makara De Montiege.
His squad mates have been less lucky, however. Pascal Leroy (Minos De Petra) made a mistake at the skinny brush topped fish in the final water, and Cedric Lyard failed to keep Cadeau Du Roi on target at the same obstacle for 20 penalties.
Mark Todd and Leonidas parted company after a trip up the step here, the horse decanting his usually watertight jockey with a violent peck onto his knees. When Tim Price and a tiring Wesko were pulled up two fences from home New Zealand, too, had no team left.
"His tank just got empty. I carried on and rode in the kindest way possible for the good of the team but I got flagged two fences from home," said Price.
Before the cross-country phase began Australian team member Christopher Burton had been forced to withdraw TS Jamaimo, who had suffered a colic attack. This left Australia at a disadvantage with only three horses still in contention at the start of cross-country day.
Another 40 or so horses still have to jump around Pierre Michelet’s taxing track, the last to go, the dressage leader Sandra Auffarth for Germany. She is scheduled to leave the start box aboard Opgun Louvo at 3.56pm local time.
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