William Fox-Pitt to compete borrowed horse at US $50,000 showcase: ‘I enjoy the challenge’

  • William Fox-Pitt will compete on a borrowed horse in a big prize-money showcase event in the USA next month when he contests the Grand Prix Eventing at Bruce’s Field in Aiken, South Carolina (4-5 March).

    “When I’m asked to do this event, it feels like it’d be good to come alive and do something as winter is a bit quiet, but then you do get there and think you’re fairly crazy,” said William, who finished third in the inaugural event in 2019 riding Sandro’s Star, owned by Hannah Salazar.

    “But it will hopefully be a bit of fun. I’m over in the US teaching three clinics so it fits in well and works out on the cost front for everyone to do something else while I’m that side of the Atlantic.”

    Riders will perform FEI five-star test B and showjump over a 1.25m course equivalent to US national advanced level on the Friday. The course is designed by Canadian 1976 Olympic showjumping individual silver medallist Michel Vaillancourt.

    On the Saturday, they will tackle a cross-country course of approximately 2,000m, with 20 jumping efforts, designed by Mark Phillips. The course is in a compact area of both grass and all-weather surface, with lots of loops, so is ideal for spectators to see the vast majority of the action.

    The prize fund is $50,000 (approximately £36,700).

    This year William will be riding Rock Phantom, lent by US five-star rider Sara Kozumplik Murphy. Rock Phantom is an 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse by Spirit House and joined Sara’s string towards the end of last year, having been produced to four-star by Brazilian rider Nilson Moreira da Silva.

    He said: “I will only ride the horse for the first time the day before and in that session you give them a jump to get a feel for them over a fence, so you’re not thinking about flying changes, then you have to ride a five-star test. I haven’t had my dressage saddle on since Pau in October, so I’ll have to practise some sitting trot.

    “The last cross-country fence I jumped was a hedge out hunting, so I need to think a bit more about that too. It’ll blow away the winter cobwebs and wake me up nicely before the season.”

    William Fox-Pitt: Grand Prix Eventing at Bruce’s Field in 2019

    William Fox-Pitt contesting the Grand Prix Eventing at Bruce’s Field in 2019 riding Sandro’s Star. Credit: Kate Boggan

    Of his chances in the Grand Prix Eventing, William Fox-Pitt said: “The temptation is to try to win, because it’s a good first prize, but I probably won’t – people prioritise these competitions now and I’ll be riding a horse I haven’t sat on before, so I’m unlikely to beat the top guys on horses they know. But there are other things to get out of the trip.”

    William has frequently ridden in competitions on borrowed horses, starting from when he did university competitions which involve a short warm-up on strange horses before a dressage test and showjumping round.

    “I wouldn’t say I’m comfortable with it, but it comes more easily to me than some and I’ve always enjoyed that feeling of going with what you’ve got,” he said. “You’re not riding a horse you trust inside out, so you have to ride the situation, ride the moment and do your best. I quite enjoy the challenge.

    “Quite a lot of my top horses I’ve inherited later in life, from Chaka to Chilli Morning, and again that’s about getting on and riding what you’ve got rather than trying to turn the horse into Mr Perfect.”

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