Moon Man made it round the cross-country at Gatcombe this afternoon, taking the top spot in the British Open Championship and continuing William Fox-Pitt’s stunning record here.
For William, this is yet another brilliant result in an already extremely successful season, but Moon Man’s form in recent times meant that victory this afternoon was anything but a foregone conclusion. The horse has a nasty habit of deciding that he has had enough long before the end of a cross-country course, as William explains:
“I’ve had to give up thinking about him. Sometimes he goes and sometimes he doesn’t, but what will be will be. He certainly enjoyed his hunting (last winter), but obviously if he decides it’s not his day he just thinks there’ll be another one and stops.”
He was gushing about the 14-year-old gelding’s performance today, however: “He absolutely loves it here. He knew where he was the minute he got off the lorry this morning.
“He performed a good dressage test, and show jumped out of his skin, and then for ‘Bob the Cob’ to go round inside the time is pretty impressive. He’s been first, second and third here now, so its obviously one of his favourite’s.”
With a first and third in Advanced Section 2 yesterday, the Dorset-based rider may well have been familiar with some of the trickier points of the course, but to finish dead on the optimum time, beating Gatcombe-based Australian rider Andrew Hoy on Master Monarch, showed true skill.
“The course certainly walked a lot twistier this year, and the questions came thick and fast” said William. “There were a lot of narrow fences not in the horse’s line of sight – which obviously caused a lot of problems.”
One of those to suffer such problems was Pippa Funnell, who finished with two run outs on her first ride, Ensign. She had nearly seven points in hand as she set out on her championship horse Primmore’s Pride but was had out by the Dodson & Horrell crossing, which also accounted for several others. They then had a second run out at a skinny fence just five fences later and retired.
Mary King, in contrast, looked entirely comfortable on Call Again Cavalier, cruising home with just a few time penalties to finish less than half a penalty behind Andrew Hoy. The combination seem to have solidified their relationship, which began at the start of this season and had a few teething troubles.
“We are really getting to know each other now,” said Mary. “He’s still a little strong, but today I felt confident enough to push him on and get him back. I am using a new bit, lent to me by William Fox-Pitt with strict instructions that I mustn’t beat him! I trust the horse more, he’s so great and I feel very honoured to ride him.”
In the Intermediate Championship, earlier in the day, just half a mark split the top three final placings. Zara Philips looked unbeatable on Red Baron on her home ground for most of this morning. She produced an immaculate dressage test on the nine-year-old, and jumped two clear rounds, but was ultimately pipped to the post by Sarah Cutteridge on Cottage Craft Spirals, who flew round and improved on Zara’s score by a mere half mark.
“Zara will be absolutely kicking herself,” explained her father, Captain Mark Phillips. “She has lost that title on a pilot error pure and simple. She got ahead of the horse down the steps and was forced to take the long route!”
Sarah Cutteridge, meanwhile, was absolutely delighted with her win on the nine-year-old Cottage Craft Spirals. The gelding was brought on by the late Caroline Pratt, and Sarah took over the ride this season. She was quick to pay tribute to Caroline.
“The foundations were there. Caroline brought him on from scratch,” Sarah said. “This is a fantastic result for the horse. The top intermediate horses in the country are here – many of them now at advanced level.
“He’s not the flashiest horse in the world, but he is a real trier. I was very pleased with his test yesterday and I thought we’d have a real go at it today, as long as he felt confident – which he did,” she added.
Former pop star Dee Kennedy surprised many of her peers by snitching second place with a fast and confident cross-country round on Big El. “It was really daunting looking down the list of runners. So many names that you know, and some of the best up and coming horses in the country. This result is a dream come true, really.”
But the dream shouldn’t stop there, Dee explains: “He was brilliant today, and really genuine everywhere, but I don’t feel as if he is having to try at all yet. This is definitely not the pinnacle of his career, it’s just a stepping-stone. I have no doubt that he is a four star horse.”
Intermediate Championship results
1. Cottage Craft Spirals (Sarah Cutteridge) 38.1
2. Big El (Dee Kennedy) 39.5
3. Red Baron (Zara Phillips) 39.6
4. Secret Picnic (Stephen Way) 40.0
5. Silbury Hill (Andrew Nicholson) 40.7
Open Championship results
1. Moon Man (William Fox-Pitt) 29.1
2. Master Monarch (Andrew Hoy) 31.9
3. Call Again Cavalier (Mary King) 32.2
4. Shear L’eau (Leslie Law) 40.7
5. Twinkle Bee (Anna Warnecke GER) 47.9