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Badminton winner Chilli Morning dies: ‘His impact has been enormous’

Chilli Morning, the most successful eventing stallion of all time, has died, aged 20.

“I’ve been riding him a lot during lockdown – he’s been my happy hacker and I’ve been riding him in our in-house dressage competitions,” owner Chris Stone told H&H. “He went for a hack yesterday and had been doing some jumping last week with one of the girls here.

“He had his own turnout paddock, which he was in this morning when he just collapsed and died instantly. It was very quick and he didn’t suffer.”

Chris added that Chilli’s impact on the sport “has been enormous”, as the most successful eventing stallion of all time, but he has also had “a huge impact” on his and wife Lisa’s lives.

“We’ve had so much fun and without Chilli, there would have been no Event Rider Masters,” said Chris, explaining that owning Chilli meant he became interested and invested in eventing and so set up the lucrative series.

Chilli, by Phantomic, was initially produced by Nick Gauntlett, who took him up to four-star (now five-star) level. He then spent a brief period with Mary King, before she decided he was too strong for her and passed the ride on to William Fox-Pitt, forging one of the great partnerships of the sport.

The pair were Britain’s best performers at the annual senior championship on every occasion they were on the team — in 2013, 2014 and 2016. In 2013 they were individual bronze medallists at the European Championships in Malmö, in 2014 they were individual bronze and team silver medallists at the World Equestrian Games in Caen, and in 2016 they finished 12th at the Rio Olympics.

Rio was one of the great “if only” stories of the sport – Chilli led the dressage and showjumped clear in both rounds, but had 20 penalties across country. The pair’s participation was a huge achievement in itself as William had suffered serious head injuries in a fall the previous autumn.

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Aside from championships, Chilli won Houghton CIC3* (now CCI4*-L) with Nick Gauntlett in 2010 and triumphed three times at three-star (now four-star) at Bramham with William Fox-Pitt, taking the long format class in 2012 and 2013 and the short format in 2014.

His greatest moment came when he won Badminton 2015. Chilli is the only stallion to win a top-level horse trials (now five-star), apart from Darren Chiacchia’s Windfall II, who won the short format CCI4* at Kentucky in 2004, the year the event ran experimental long and short format competitions.

Chilli was retired after the Rio Olympics and spent his final years at Chris’s Sussex home, Tattleton, where Gemma Tattersall is based and the Stones’ have a breeding programme based around his progeny. They have frozen semen from Chilli, as well as three clones of the stallion who will be used for breeding in the future.

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