William Fox-Pitt has taken third place at the close of dressage at Rolex Kentucky Horse Trials.
The British rider piloted last year’s winner, Bay My Hero, to a smooth test — the only blip was the horse throwing his head up slightly after the first flying change — for a score of 38.5 in front of a large crowd: 13,650 people were at the event today.
“You never know how the horses are going to react to the atmosphere — he’s usually a cool, level-headed horse, but after the excitements of last year I wasn’t sure,” said William.
“When I saw the draw I thought ‘Thanks for putting me after Veronica’ [last year’s runner-up, ridden by America’s Lauren Kieffer] as I knew there’d be a lot of noise. She’s also not a mare you want to cross on the ramp, so I had to work out how to get in the arena.
“But I’m delighted with him — he was pretty much on the button the whole way.”
Germany’s Michael Jung is now equal first with Tim Price, both riders scoring 36.3. New Zealand rider Tim was the morning’s sensation, performing a beautiful test with last year’s Luhmühlen winner Wesko, who belongs Christina Knudsen and the Wesko Syndicate.
“I was aware it was a strong field before I came, but I came with the intention of doing what we did today,” said Tim. “He’s a very competitive horse and was ready to perform in this department.
“Over the past three days we’ve been working on suppleness and preparing him in such a way that the atmosphere would give him the lift and extra dynamic so it worked to our advantage. He’s a relatively inexperienced horse and it [the atmosphere] hasn’t always manifested itself that way — it has sometimes disrupted our test, but today it helped him to perform.”
Michael Jung said the Olympic champion La Biosthetique-Sam FBW — owned by the Jung family, Erich Single, Michael’s father Joachim and the DOKR (the German Olympic equestrian federation) — was not quite at his best today.
“My feeling was not really good on him today as he was nervous — you could see that in his halt, rein-back and move off to canter — but everything else went well so I’m happy with him,” said the German.
Michael also has yesterday’s leader, FischerRocana FST, in fourth place.
Wilson restores British spirits
Britain suffered a blow after lunch when Zara Phillips had to withdraw High Kingdom, but Nicola Wilson revived Team GBR’s spirits with a good test on her parents’ Barry and Mary Tweddle’s Annie Clover. She sits 11th on 45.6.
“She’s strengthened up so much and feels much stronger over the quarters than last year and more established,” said Nicola. “I’m thrilled with how she coped with the atmosphere.”
Francis Whittington, who was disappointed with his test yesterday on Easy Target, is now 15th, while Nicola is equal 27th on her first ride, Watermill Vision.
US-based Brit James Alliston sits 59th on his first ride Parker and 33rd with Tivoli, who went this afternoon and scored 52.8.
“He gets quite excited in the canter, especially with the changes, but I thought the marks could have been better for the trotwork,” said James.
Changes to timetable
Rain is forecast for tomorrow and alterations have been made to the schedule in the hope of getting the cross-country over before the going deteriorates.
The start time has been brought forward 15min to 9.45am and after the first three horses, riders will run at 3min intervals, rather than the planned 5min. If there are no holds, the competition will be over by soon after 1.30pm.
“I think the cross-country will be tiring even without rain — the ground is quite soft and there are some decent combinations out there which require a lot of jumping,” said William.
“I think it’s a super track, but I wouldn’t want to ride Bay My Hero round there if the ground gets heavy. He’s a brilliant cross-country horse, but he’s not a thoroughbred and I’d like him to have a fighting chance on the ground.”
Cross-country times (Kentucky is five hours behind Britain)
More updates from Kentucky online over the weekend. Full report in H&H next week, out Thursday, 30 April.