A classy well-timed cross-country round has propelled William Fox-Pitt and Bay My Hero into 1st position in the Rolex Kentucky CCI****.
2nd after dressage, the British pair rose that one vital slot when dressage leader Allison Springer’s Arthur ducked out right at the brush element of the Normandy Bank.
Despite the 11-year-old Bay My Hero’s lack of experience — this is only his 2nd 4-star start — he gave William a smoother ride than his first horse, Seacookie, who made his jockey work hard for a clear round.
“Bay My Hero went superbly and galloped really well to the end. I was a little worried that he was a bit chubby and maybe lacking a bit of fitness, but he’s a super horse who loves his job and I couldn’t be happier with him,” he said.
There is a cushion of less than 2 penalties between William and 2nd-placed Lauren Kieffer going into tomorrow’s showjumping. The O’Connors’ pupil steered the mare Veronica home clear despite being briefly held on course.
“After that she really had to fight for it going through the Head of the Lake and I had to focus on being accurate,” said Lauren.
Phillip Dutton is in 3rd place with Karen O’Connor’s London ride Mr Medicott.
Showjumper turned eventer Marilyn Little is in 4th with RF Demeter, as well as 10th with her grey RF Smoke Of The Water.
Day one dressage leaders Michael Pollard and Mensa G added 2 cross-country time faults to their scoresheet for 5th place.
They are the only members of the new top 10 who exceeded the optimum in a contest that saw timely clear rounds notched up more regularly than usual at a 4-star event. In perfect conditions 29 horses went clear, 19 of these inside the 11min 12sec optimum, which is around 25% of the field.
“The conditions were perfect and horses ran on well, but there were still those who didn’t make it round,” said William Fox-Pitt in reply to a question as to whether the track was too easy. “It shows the quality of the field and is an encouraging sign for WEG.”
In all 10 horses were eliminated and 6 retired on course but with faults spread all around there was no particular bogey.
“It was a very transparent course,” continued William. “Horses could see their way through fences and a bold approach was well rewarded.”
Buck Davidson, the competition anchorman, is lying in 6th with Ballynoe Castle RM, just in front of Andrew Nicholson (Avebury), the only New Zealander now left in the field after Mark Todd withdrew Oloa.
The Burghley winner gave his jockey a rough ride in places, particularly at the Water Park when the grey scrambled over the goose in the middle of the water almost dislodging the Kiwi from the saddle. Andrew later lost a stirrup after jumping the triple brush at fence 9, and he gave his mount a firm reminder before the pair jumped the Offset Brushes. This was the fence that had been worrying riders the most but on the day it prompted just three horses to fault.
Will Faudree, 7th after the dressage, was the only rider apart from Allison Springer to disappear from the business end of the leaderboard. He eventually retired Pawlow following a run out at fence 5, the Water Park.
Alice Dunsdon’s Fernhill Present glanced off the corner at the Tobacco Stripping Bench, fence 12, but the pair is still in the hunt, albeit with 102.4 penalties.
Sarah Bullimore and Reve De Rouet added 8 time faults to their score which has anchored them in 18th slot, while US-based Brit James Alliston’s untidy round with Parker did end successfully when the pair crossed the finish line with no penalties to add.
Irishman Tim Bourke’s campaign was scuppered by a fall at the Horse Park Barns, 3 from home, and the action was halted for a second time as vets attended to Luckaun Quality.
Just 2 showjumps now separate the top 8 horses, ensuring a tense final phase in the Kentucky Horse Park’s main stadium tomorrow.
“When you are in the top few going into the show jumping you feel pretty sick,” said William Fox-Pitt. “The nerves will be going.”
Rolex Kentucky Horse Trials results after cross-country
1. William Fox-Pitt/Bay My Hero (GBR), 44
2. Lauren Kieffer/Veronica (USA), 46.7
3. Phillip Dutton/Mr Medicott (USA), 49.5
4. Marilyn Little/RF Demeter (USA), 51.3
5. Michael Pollard/Mensa G (USA), 51.5
6. Buck Davidson/Ballynoe Castle RM (USA), 51.7
7. Andrew Nicholson/Avebury (USA), 51.7
8. Sinead Halpin/Manoir De Carneville (USA), 51.7
9. Phillip Dutton/Trading Aces (USA), 52.5
10. Marilyn Little/RF Smoke On The Water (USA), 52.5
16. William Fox-Pitt/Seacookie TSF (GBR), 59.1
18. Sarah Bullimore/Reve Du Rouet (GBR), 60.7
25. James Alliston/Parker (GBR), 69.2
35. Alice Dunsdon/Fernhill Present (GBR), 102.4