WILLIAM FOX-PITT and Little Fire made short work of the Saracen Horse Feeds Houghton International CCIO4*-S to seal their win with a deceptively quick cross-country round.
The 12-year-old gelding, with whom William was ninth at Badminton 2019, breezed around Alec Lochore’s track to come home a comfortable four seconds inside the time.
William, who co-owns the horse with Jennifer Dowling, said to win was “a nice surprise”.
“I haven’t really ridden him fast since Badminton 2019, so today was quite a surprise,” said William.
“I thought I would be quick enough to win — he was in a good position and I was at the end of the class, but I thought I would fully use up all my points [in hand]. He is a quick horse and it was lovely ground and a nice course. We rather enjoyed ourselves!”
Selina Milnes and the 13-year-old Iron IV, owned by William Rucker, rose from 10th after dressage to claim the runner-up spot on their first phase score of 30.
“I thought with being up there after dressage, that I had to go for it. It rode really well, it was open, galloping and he is a big-striding horse — I just kept coming and it all happened nicely, I didn’t have one bad moment,” said Selina, adding she decided she “had to go for it”.
“I walked the line over and over again at the corners [8ab] and originally I was going to go on five [strides], but actually the horse is so much better if you don’t take a pull and he was really awesome through there.”
Those blue Howes Percival corners in front of the house proved the most influential fence on course, with seven combinations picking up 20 penalties here and one elimination.
The consistent combination of Bubby Upton and Magic Roundabout IV finished third on their dressage score of 30.7, with time penalties dropping overnight leader Alex Hua Tian and Jilsonne Van Bareelhof into fourth.
Eventing Nations Cup
Houghton was the opening leg of this year’s FEI Nations Cup series and was won by the home side, made up of Mollie Summerland (Charly Van Ter Heiden), Tom McEwen (Class Affair) and Georgie Spence (Halltown Harley), who all finished on their dressage scores.
Britain, Ireland and Australia all competed with teams of three, meaning the final result went right to the wire.
There was some drama as 2021, not satisfied with a pandemic, Brexit and challenging weather, had a few more surprises up its sleeve.
A withdrawal by Australia’s Sammi Birch meant Sophie Adams (Ridire Dorcha) had to be swapped in as a late substitution to ensure the competition could run.
Gemma Tattersall also withdrew Jalapeno III ahead of the dressage, with British chef d’equipe Philip Surl explaining the horse had knocked a splint.
Philip added he was “very pleased” with the Brits’ performances.
“It’s always nice to finish on what you started with after dressage. It’s been a little bit of a testing week,” he said.
“I know it wasn’t the strongest of fields from the point of view of numbers, but it’s just great to have a team competition. It’s been a while, but hopefully we can all move on from here.
“There was enough to do out there, there were plenty of places just to have a silly 20 and they had to keep their brains on, so I’m very pleased.”
Full report from Houghton International, including the CCI3*-L sections, is also available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 3 June 2021
You may also be interested in…
Ros Canter was in top form as she dominated both the CCI3*-L sections at Saracen Horse Feeds Houghton International
Find out which horses and riders are named as Britain’s nominated entries for the eventing at the Tokyo Olympics
The horse who won Britain’s top event in 2020 hits early form, while rising stars dominate the intermediates at the