Prince Panache leads after dressage

  • Second day report

    Karen O’Connor and her veteran Prince Panache romped into the lead towards the end of the dressage at the world’s richest three-day event, the MBNA Foxhall Cup, near Atlanta, Georgia, yesterday (Friday).

    The pair had no trouble dropping just 34.6 penalty points to take over from long-time leader, Karen’s pupil Holly Hepp on Arctic Heart with 40.6.

    Prince Panache, 17, has previously been placed at Badminton but has dropped a level to contest this three-star event towards the twilight of his career, especially as he had a late start this season after a lot of time off after the Sydhey Games.

    “Everything is a bonus at this stage. We are doing it for the fun of the sport.” said Karen.

    A win here for Karen would make a unique family double, husband David having picked up $50,000 the previous weekend at the Rolex in Kentucky. This weekend’s purse is worth $60,000 to the winner, the largest prize ever offered in horse trials.

    Karen and David are helping a staggering 20 horses at this event, which has 68 starters.

    US team contender Darren Chiacchia and Linden Wiseman share third place on 43.4, while British-based Eddy Stibbe has two in the top 12, Prime Contender and Eton.

    Nigel Taylor is in equal 41st on Gamblers Lad.

    Foxhall organiser Jim Richards has spared no expense setting this event up from scratch in just two years on an amazing property which only three years ago was a dirt racetrack and polo grounds.

    I was lucky enough to be taken over the 4,000 acres by helicopter this afternoon and was astonished to see that it is virtually surrounded by swamp.

    Mr Richards and his team have reclaimed much of the land, incorporating many water features. Although the site is flat, apart from one steep climb up and down through a wood, the idea is to make the course spectator and TV-friendly and virtually half the fences can be seen at any one time.

    The land reclamation and excavations have also been aimed at varying the course every year and a “world first” here is a portable, steel constructed island which can be moved to change the line through the main water jump next time.

    This year as last, Foxhall has been scheduled the same weekend as Badminton, a situation which many would rightly find strange and undesirable.

    Mr Richards intends to put Foxhall on the map and is aiming at 100,000 spectators in a short time, but he says he is not setting himself up deliberately against Badminton.The first weekend in May is traditionally Kentucky Derby Day and part of the pledge was to bring a huge celebration to the local community.

    So when cross-country finishes tomorrow around five, all eyes will be drawn to the big screens for a live broadcast from the famous race at Churchill Downs, followed by dancing and partying all evening.

    For more information on Foxhall visit:www.foxhallcup.com

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