Twelve years on William Fox-Pitt puts his signature on Barbury again
A huge cheer greeted Britain's William Fox-Pitt at the cross-country finish of the three-star class at the St. James’s Place Barbury International Horse Trials (July 9) as he scored his biggest eventing win since he suffered a serious head injury in a fall in the autumn of 2015.
The last to go on Mark Phillips’s somewhat controversial course, the former world number one rode with skill and determination on new ride Clifton Signature to finish just four seconds over the optimum time of six minutes 25 seconds. That achievement sealed his victory over Barbury specialist Andrew Nicholson, who is based in Lockeridge.
Nicholson was riding his rising star Swallow Springs and this had been the first of two opportunities he had to win a sixth Barbury three star in a row. The third leg of this year's Event Rider Masters series was still to come - see later report.
Barbury, with its natural amphitheatre, always throws up a thrilling contest and this will go down as one of the most memorable. It was only Fox-Pitt's second ride on Frances Stead’s twelve year-old chestnut gelding Clifton Signature - a horse formerly ridden by Jock Paget before he returned to New Zealand: "It’s my biggest win for ages - a great surprise."
Fox-Pitt last won this event in 2005 on Ballincoola. He has won at two-star level since returning from injury, but this is easily his most pressured and high-profile victory: "I’m not known for winning one-day events - I usually have loads of time faults - and I wasn’t sure this morning that I was going to go for it."
"But then I thought 'I’ll have a go' and the horse got better and better. I like him - he’s fun, he’s no nonsense and he’s well trained and knows what to do."
British number one Oliver Townend finished third on Note Worthy. But other top British riders fared less well: Tina Cook, who had led after the first two phases on Billy the Red, withdrew before the cross-country, and Kitty King, lying fifth on Vendredi Biats, retired after a run-out.
American rider Tiana Coudray, first on course and setting the standard with a sensational round inside the optimum time, eventually finished seventh on the appropriately named Inside the Clocks.
There was talk about this year's hard ground - due to the hot weather. But the course itself came in for some august criticism. Andrew Nicholson said he thought the course was 'soft' and that he wanted a course which tested jumping skills more than speed skills.
It was no fault of the course builders that earlier in the day after a fall up on the downland part of the cross country course, one horse became stuck in an obstacle. It took the course maintenance teams, who are always on hand, quite a few minutes to resolve the problem. The horse remained calm and seemed none the worse for the incident. [Click on images to enlarge them]