It was all smiles for Great Britain at the Rolex Kentucky four-star, as William Fox-Pitt won the competition on Cool Mountain and Oliver Townend rebounded from a crashing cross-country fall, leaving the hospital after an overnight stay to greet fans at the Kentucky Horse Park.
Oliver, who cracked his sternum, collarbone, shoulder and four ribs, received welcome cheers from the grandstands filled with 16,499 spectators when his presence was announced to the crowd.
He was walking a bit gingerly but seemed in good form — as long as no one made him laugh. He said he visited his uninjured mount, Ashdale Cruise Master, as he was munching hay in his stall. But there was no way he could finish his pursuit of the Rolex Grand Slam with his other horse, ODT Master Rose, who had been standing seventh.
This was William’s sixth attempt to win at Rolex, and he didn’t think he’d be able to do it with Cool Mountain, who was competing in his first four-star. But he finished on his unblemished dressage score of 42.8pen, with more than a rail in hand over America’s Phillip Dutton.
Phillip Dutton and Woodburn jumped clear in the showjumping to move up from fourth to second on 47.7pen. Kim Severson, who had been only two penalties behind William with the Irish-bred Tipperary Liadhnan, suffered a disaster starting at the third fence, where the grey gelding came to a screeching stop, knocking the rails to the ground. It got worse from there as fence after fence fell. She finished on 24 jumping faults and 12 time penalties to drop to 24th place on 80.8pen. America’s Becky Holder remained third with Courageous Comet on 49.2pen after dropping one pole.
William admitted he hadn’t come to Rolex expecting to win with Theresa Stopford Sackville’s 10-year-old, who she bought as a yearling.
“I’ve been very impressed and surprised by my horse all week. He’s a real trier,” said William. When he didn’t count on keeping his lead, he commented: “I wasn’t being modest, but he has come out of this competition a better horse without a doubt. He’s learned an awful lot. We were very lucky to have a fantastic cross-country course to ride, very educational one and hopefully maybe for me now a step up to WEG in the autumn.”
In the midst of William’s celebration, he made a point of mentioning Oliver.
“I was sure he’d win it. He came here flying with two lovely horses. For it to have gone so wrong and to have that horrible fall with Cruise Master shows what it’s all about. You just never know. You could never have imagined that. We’re all just very happy he’s okay and he’ll win it another day.”
“It’s been a week of ups and downs,” said Will Connell, British World Class Performance Manger.
“Very sorry for Oliver, but William was classic William Fox-Pitt and deserved to win right from the first day of dressage. When you win a four-star when you take two riders abroad, that’s a good result.
“Obviously, it’s a great disappointment for Oliver, but that’s the sport. That guy’s got lots of wins in him. William’s a great, great rider and he’s proved it here at Rolex. For Great Britain it’s fantastic, we’ve got another horse that’s won a four-star.”
Listen to interview with William Fox-Pitt
Don’t miss H&H’s full report from Rolex Kentucky, on sale Thursday 29 April