William Fox-Pitt leads after cross-country at Blenheim Horse Trials

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It’s all change at the top of the leaderboard at the Fidelity Blenheim International Horse Trials. William Fox-Pitt and Catherine Witt’s Seacookie, lying fifth after dressage, cruised into pole position with one of just six clear rounds inside the optimum time of 10min 21sec.

A relieved William, who pulled up the 13-year-old at Burghley last weekend after he struggled in the early part of the course, was delighted with the gelding’s comeback here.

“This was a big difference from a week ago,” he said. “I set off much more positively and it paid off. I only had one sticky moment near the end of the course — at the table to corner combination [fence 24ab] — but the way he got himself out of trouble showed that he really is a four-star horse.”

Mark Todd conjured a brilliant round from Suzie Belsham’s Conair, deputising for an injured Rodney Powell. The nine-year-old chestnut started hesitantly, but visibly gained in confidence the further he went.

“I had a couple of hairy moments, but the horse kept jumping. The course had been beefed up, but that’s a good thing. It’s now a suitable step up to Badminton and Burghley,” said Mark, who added 2.4 time penalties to his dressage score of 39.6 to lie on 42.

Tina Cook occupies third spot with her own and Jim Chromiak’s De Novo News on 42.8, just 0.2 of a penalty ahead of Oliver Townend and Outside Chance in fourth.

Problems were well spread around Eric Winter’s 27-fence course, with 50% of starters going clear.

“The course caught out people in different places, but the penalties have been good and honest — the odd 20 rather than any serious problems,” said Eric.

Dressage leaders Christopher Burton and Underdiscussion plummeted down the leaderboard to 23rd after a frustrating stop at fence 23, a relatively straight-forward brush fence coming out of the second water crossing that caused no other problems all day.

The top three places in the eight- and nine-year-old CIC** remain unchanged. Dressage leaders Andrew Nicholson and Quimbo showjumped clear to stay in pole position on 35.1. Piggy French and West Side added three time penalties, moving them on to 39.3, but keeping them just ahead of third-placed Bettina Hoy and Designer 10.

CCI*** results after cross-country

1. William Fox-Pitt on Seacookie (GB) 39
2. Mark Todd on Conair (NZ) 42
3. Tina Cook on De Novo News (GB) 42.8
4. Oliver Townend on Outside Chance (GB) 45.4
5. Kitty King on Zidante (GB) 45.6
6. Paul Tapner on Kilronan (AUS) 45.8
7. Lucy Wiegersma on Simon Porloe (GB) 47
8. Francis Whittington on Easy Target (GB) 47.2
9. Cedric Lyard on Cadeau Du Roi (FRA) 47.6
10. Polly Stockton and Benromach (GB) 49.4

CIC*** results after showjumping
1. Andrew Nicholson on Quimbo (NZ) 35.1
2. Piggy French on West Side (GB) 39.3
3. Bettina Hoy on Designer 10 (GER) 40.8
4. William Fox-Pitt and Bay My Hero (GB) 42
5. Gemma Tattersall on Chico Bella P (GB) 43.8
6. Sammi McLeod on LG Wellington (AUS) 44.2
7. Izzy Taylor on KBIS Starchaser (GB) 44.8
8. Susanna Bordone on Amacuzzi (ITA) 45.6
9. Piggy French on Kiltealy Brief (GB) 45.9
10. Dani Evans on Raphael (GB) 47.1