“After Bicton, we looked into what was wrong and it was quite ambiguous – there wasn’t not a lot of rhyme or reason,” says William. “There were several little things it could have been, so we’ve done our best to steer away from any of causes.”
After extensive veterinary investigations and a break following Bicton, Oratorio was given the go ahead to build up to Pau. William hasn’t had a chance to take him to another competition, but he has been training well and the vet was in attendance for his final gallop at home.
“There’s been no sign of a bleed since Bicton, so we want to try again this year,” says William. “We don’t want to wait until next year and discover at Badminton it’s something recurring and lose another whole year.
“It would be nice to put this one to bed in Pau and attack next year fresh without that cloud. It would have been easy to think we’d put him in the field but then we could get to May and find something and miss the whole of 2023.
“He’s 12 and we want to maximise our chances and enjoy him while he’s at his peak.”
Pau Horse Trials: William Fox-Pitt says Little Fire is a Pau type
William’s other ride at Pau is another 12-year-old, his own and Jennifer Dowling’s Little Fire, who was on Britain’s reserve list for the Tokyo Olympics and was first reserve for the Europeans.
“He was fit for the Olympics although he was a long way down the list, as you never know what’s going to happen, and then fit again for the Europeans,” says William. “He’s been all dressed up and gone nowhere, so he needs to go somewhere and make the most of it.”
Although William had a “stupid fall” when Little Fire ran out at Pau 2018, William believes he is well suited to the track.
“He doesn’t pull and is good at turning, so he could go well in Pau – he would suit that sort of twisty, turny course,” he says.
“Oratorio is really not a Pau horse – he’s a galloping machine, not a nip and tuck tidy little horse. I will find it difficult at times to stop and turn him – hopefully he can jump the jumps but he’s quite onward bound.
“Both horses have got more mileage now and have had good preparation, so I’m looking forward to getting down there with some nice sunshine and good ground, hopefully.”
William has won Pau twice, in 2011 on Oratorio’s sire Oslo and 2013 on Seacookie TSF.
“It’s been a happy event where I’ve had some good experiences,” he said. “I thought my season would be finished by now, but it’s been one of those years. I fell off at Kentucky, Badminton was cancelled, I was reserve for the Olympics and Europeans, Oratorio bled at Bicton, the horse I was aiming for Blenheim had bad blood tests… it’s been that sort of year.
“You could wait for Badminton next year but then it could be rained off or a horse gets injured and you think you should have done Pau. Both horses are 12, I’m 52, you’ve got to seize the moment and go to events while they are feeling good.”
William and his horses set off for Pau yesterday evening (Monday, 25 October), and travelled through the night in order to arrive at the event on Tuesday, giving them time to settle in before the trot-up on Thursday morning.
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