‘It’s in my veins’: William Fox-Pitt gives cross-country masterclass on Badminton debutante

  • William Fox-Pitt demonstrated quite why he is a master cross-country rider, getting a beautiful tune out of five-star debutante Grafennacht at Badminton Horse Trials, presented by Mars Equestrian.

    Amanda Gould’s 11-year-old mare looked a touch green in the first third of this influential course, and William had to sit tight as she fumbled her way through the Holland Cooper Owl Hole. William elected to take the slower route to the right into The Lake – having been critical of the direct route beforehand.

    But the horse grew in confidence as she went round, despite the energy-sapping ground, and finished with 35.2 time-faults, which kept him up near the top of the leaderboard. William revealed he had been thinking of withdrawing his young mare, but his son encouraged him to go for it.

    “I was thinking, ‘Shall I pull out?’ – it’s very muddy today – but my son said, ‘Come on, you’ve been round here 25 times, what else are you doing today?’,” said William. “And it gives you a real kick. Without it you’d really miss it. Sometimes I think I’ve done it so many times, but it’s like a drug, it’s in your veins.

    “She’s a slightly green horse and this was turning into quite a decent track in the mud, but I did believe in her and I am glad I did. This is a feather in her cap and I can build on it.”

    William was particularly impressed with the mare’s recovery after her stumble at fence 12.

    “That’s her quality – she doesn’t care if her legs aren’t in quite the right place, it’s the way she is,” he said. “She’s not a superstar amazing jumper, a powerful galloper or a really impressive horse but she’s a bloody good trier and I love riding her. That’s why I’m still going!”

    Although William was optimistic about Grafennacht’s ability to jump the fences, the mud was an unknown factor.

    “You had to react and see what you had, and it wasn’t all as I expected,” he said. “Everything was big, and jumping out of that mud – there wasn’t a single fence that wasn’t demanding. But you never know if your horse will handle it – she’s never been able to see her footprint before.”

    Amateur rider enjoys ‘the time of my life’

    New Zealand rider Lauren Innes had been looking forward to an influential cross-country track after lying second-last after dressage. Global Fision M gave the early fences plenty of air, and came home after a foot-perfect clear round for 40.8 time-faults.

    “He is a warrior, it doesn’t matter where we are, he sees those flags and he is getting over that fence,” said Lauren. “I had the time of my life!

    “I was nervous he would tire, so I didn’t go so fast and I knew I was down on my minute markers, but he just galloped home so strongly.  I could have used him a bit more out there – he could have gone round again. I knew he would go on the ground, but until they’ve done it at the five-star level you don’t know. He jumps so high, he jumped right to the bottom of the [Holland Cooper] Owl Hole bank, it just doesn’t bother him.”

    Badminton first-timer Kristina Hall-Jackson had an early run-out on CMS Google at the final angled element at the Lightsource BP Hollow, and also glided past the brush corner in The Lake. But the mare was still going well, and they galloped through the finish to complete.

    Tom Crisp was in middle of a super round on the diminutive mare Liberty And Glory, when she tipped him out of the plate with an awkward jump at the corner in The Lake. He so nearly clung on, then sportingly mimed a bit of front crawl, and graciously emerged from the water with his hands raised and bowed to the crowd.

    Bill Levett was another to fall foul of the tricky brush and ditch at fence 26. Hubertus AC was by then looking fairly leg-weary so after one run-out here he retired.

    Austin O’Connor had earlier catapulted to the top of the leaderboard on Colorado Blue thanks to his fast clear round. They were 34th after dressage, and still hold a commanding lead two-thirds of the way through the competition.

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