William Fox-Pitt can do no wrong at the moment, it seems. Its been all go for him in the thrills and spills of the eventing world during the last month. This time last month he was crowned Open Champion at Gatcombe, and just a week ago, was forced to forego defending his title at Thirlestane due to the birth of Fox Pitt junior.
The overnight scores at Burghley going into Sundays show jumping showed the all-too-customary three-way battle between eventings current top male trio William Fox-Pitt, Andrew Nicholson and Andrew Hoy.
Fox Pitt on Ballincoola and Andrew Hoy on Mr Pracatan produced beautifully timed, foot-perfect rounds to finish on their dressage scores, while Andrew Nicholsons slightly slower round on Lord Killinghurst, which had its sticky moments, means that the Englishman Fox-Pitt has a fence in hand for tomorrows final challenge.
Mark Phillips track the last four star to be run with steeplechase asked questions of horse and rider all the way, with no let up until riders were over the last. Mistakes were spread relatively evenly over the course, and there were several major upsets. Shear H2O looked slightly reticent from the outset, and rider Leslie Law was eventually had out by the veteran at fence 8b, the extremely skinny Mushroom fence.
Later in the day, American eventing superstar Kim Severson set out at such a lick on Winsome Adante that she, and the horse, were tripped up coming out of Capabilitys Cutting (north), and flung out of the competition.
Mary King and Call Again Cavalier were a delight to watch on Saturday. They accrued several time faults on the steeplechase, which King conceded were entirely down to rider error, and I am absolutely gutted by my mistake. They were quick across country, however, and apart from one or two moments of disagreement, look a much happier duo than six months ago at Badminton.
He was still very strong, which was why we had a few tricky moments, but he is so brave and bold, and so clever. His great jumping ability meant that he could jump himself out of any trouble today, added King.
Chance combination Sarah Cutteridge and Riva Ruel looked extremely promising this afternoon. Cutty picked up the ride from Patricia Price, Riva Ruels usual partner, who bust her collarbone in a fall at Thirlestane last month. She had never jumped a cross-country fence competitively on the horse until today, but gave it her all.
We kept positive all the way round it worked with him and he felt great. All credit to Trish, she has done all the work and Ive just had the easy job of getting on the horse at the last minute, explained Cutteridge.
Phillip Dutton was another of the Antipodean riders to fare well over this undulating track, finishing closely behind fellow Australian Andrew Hoy on Mr Pracatan, with his first ride Foreman, he put his experience to extremely good use on four star first-timer Amazing Odyssey.
Its always good to have a round under your belt when you set out, and it meant that I was in a position to help out my less experienced ride, said Dutton. This was Odysseys first four star, and hes a serious jumping horse so he over jumped a bit, but he gave me a great round. He tired a bit so we finished a bit slow well, three seconds outside the time!
He headed the ranks of four-star first-timers that made light of Mark Phillips questions. Phoebus, ridden by Laurence Hunt, produced a sparkling round to finish in 13th place overnight, while Midnight Dazzler, ridden by Harry Meade also looked impressive. The 15-year-old gelding has had a variety of riders over the years, but Wiltshire-based youngster Meade seems to have solidified their relationship.
Different people get on with different horses. Hes very highly strung and extremely sensitive, said Meade. Anything can happen out there, and we were lucky to get away with everything. He was a bit distracted by the crowd to start, so he wasnt looking at the fences until the last minute, but he gave me a great ride.
Burghley Results, Saturday
1. Ballincoola (William Fox-Pitt) 42.4
2. Lord Killinghurst (Andrew Nicholson NZL) 47.4
3. Mr Practan (Andrew Hoy AUS) 52.2
4. The Foreman (Phillip Dutton AUS) 53.1
5. Riva Ruel (Sarah Cutteridge) 53.7
6. Master Monarch (Andrew Hoy AUS) 54.5
7. Call Again Cavalier (Mary King) 55.6
8. Liquid Ice (Rodney Powell) 56.6
9. Lenamore (Caroline Powell NZL) 57.3
10. Limestone Rise (Polly Jackson) 59.0
* Images courtesy of Burghley