Ex-racehorse who won two five-stars dies, aged 22: ‘A machine of an athlete’

  • Parklane Hawk, who won two four-stars (now five-stars) with William Fox-Pitt, has died aged 22.

    Owned by Catherine Witt, the New Zealand thoroughbred “Parker” was by the successful racehorse Grosvenor and his damsire was Brilliant Invader, another good racehorse sire who also produced top-class showjumpers and eventers, including Blyth Tait’s 1996 Olympic champion Ready Teddy and Wendy Schaeffer’s 2010 Adelaide four-star winner Koyuna Sun Dancer.

    Parker raced from the age of two to seven in New Zealand – having 17 starts but never winning – and was then produced to three-star (now four-star) level in eventing by Kiwi rider Matthew Grayling, before coming to Britain at the start of 2010.

    He won Blenheim Horse Trials CCI3* (now CCI4*-L) in his first season with William Fox-Pitt in 2010, then triumphed on his first attempt at four-star (now five-star) with William the following autumn at Burghley Horse Trials – despite William making an error of course in the dressage.

    William said at the time: “Parklane Hawk is a phenomenal horse and I’m so lucky to ride him.”

    This was William’s sixth Burghley win, a particular achievement because it meant William matched Lucinda Green’s record of winning six times at one British top-level event, as Lucinda achieved at Badminton Horse Trials.

    Parker went on to win Kentucky Three-Day Event the following spring.

    He was third at Burghley in 2012 and 2013, as well as finishing fifth at Badminton 2013, when William was bidding to win the Rolex Grand Slam – a big-money prize given to any rider who can win Badminton, Burghley and Kentucky consecutively. Because Badminton had been cancelled in 2012, William’s attempt to complete the trio was rolled over to 2013 – this unique set of circumstances meant that had Parker won, William would have been the only rider to complete the grand slam using only one horse.

    William Fox-Pitt and his wife Alice are guest-editing next week’s issue of Horse & Hound (magazine dated 31 March), in which William has picked six special horses through his career to profile. These include Parklane Hawk.

    “A Badminton win eluded him in 2014 when he had a heart fibrillation and fell at the third-last,” said William. “That year, the time was impossible but he was bang on it when he lost his action and cannoned into a hedge.

    “He was my first reserve horse for the London Olympics and when you consider his record, it might seem strange he never did teams, but I had a strong string at that time. He was an amazing galloper, but more of a five-star horse than a team horse. He was a beast, a machine of an athlete; across country he was hard core.

    “Parker was the first horse I had to learn to hold and that came in useful when I had Chilli Morning. Thanks to Parker, I’d discovered a bit – a curb gag – and learnt to ride in it.”

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