Fox-Pitt showed all his famous finesse and calmness as he conjured a clear round with just one time fault on the sodden ground from Catherine Witt’s Parklane Hawk, an 11-year-old New Zealand Thoroughbred by Grosvenor.
He has now beaten the five Burghley victories apiece for Ginny Elliot (GBR) and Mark Todd (NZL), and has equalled Lucinda Green’s (GBR) Badminton record of six wins on six different horses.
“This ranks as one of the best achievements of my life,” said a visibly emotional Fox-Pitt afterwards.
“I pretend to look relaxed, but deep down this really matters to me. It’s such an honour to win six times and to be among such legends as Mark, Ginny and Lucinda - and Mark’s still going, so perhaps he’ll beat me next time!
“I can’t believe what’s happened today. The horse was superb because the conditions were against us. I’m so lucky to have him to ride.”
The cheers were nearly as loud for the popular runner-up, Andrew Nicholson (NZL) on Libby Sellar’s Spanish-bred Nereo, who rose from fifth to second with a beautifully judged clear round.
Sadly, though, Nicholson’s second ride, Avebury, hit three fences and dropped six places to eighth.
“We tried our best, but William’s horse jumped immaculately,” said Nicholson sportingly afterwards.
“The wet ground just meant that the oxers in the middle of the course became big jumps, but hitting the gate (fence 4) was my fault.
“It’s been one of the best finales to a major competition. The crowd has been great and I’ve enjoyed entertaining them.”
He added: “I’m pleased with both my horses. They’ve had a hard year. They’ll be taking it easy next spring and then they’ll be my top choices for the Olympics. We’ve got a lot to look forward to in the New Zealand team.”
The irrepressible Mary King (GBR) finished third on Derek Baden’s Kings Temptress and has significantly extended her lead in the HSBC FEI Classics™. She now leads dual former winner Fox-Pitt by 13 points, which means he will have to win at Pau (FRA) (12-16 October) and King would have to finish lower than eighth if he is to collect his third HSBC FEI Classics™ title.
“Right, I’d better set off for Pau,” was King’s immediate reaction.
She continued: “I wanted to prove that last week [when she fell at the HSBC FEI European Championships] was in the past. I’m proud of Kings Temptress. She’s not a great stylist in the Jumping phases but she tries her heart out.”
King revealed that the mare has had a foal by embryo transfer this summer, by Grafenstöltz.
There were four New Zealand combinations in the top 10, and fourth-placed Caroline Powell’s team mates are now very keen that she saves the bouncy veteran Lenamore for next year’s Olympic Games.
Jonathan Paget (NZL) also showed his promise for 2012 by coming fifth, his best CCI4* result, on Clifton Lush, the only combination to finish on their Dressage score.
Fifty-four horses finished the competition, with 13 penalty-free Jumping rounds, a further five had time penalties. There were three withdrawals before Jumping, the highest-placed being Elizabeth Power’s (IRL) Kilpatrick River, sixth after Cross Country.
Torrential rain fell all morning and made conditions difficult. Kitty King (GBR) was eliminated in the Jumping for two refusals. She rode when the rain was at its heaviest, and High Havoc slid into a fence, nearly unseating King.
The FEI HSBC Classics™ action now moves to France next month (12-16 October). Fox-Pitt and King, two of the greatest names in the sport, will be fighting it out for the valuable first prize, but the door is wide open for several other riders to leap into the top five.
HSBC Training Bursary
Tom McEwen (GBR), who wins the HSBC Training Bursary worth US$1,000 for the best CCI4* debut, finished in 19th place on Dry Old Party, having collected 12 penalties in the final phase. “It’s a pity about the Jumping, but the Cross Country was a great day,” said the 20-year-old, who was the youngest competitor at Burghley.
“It’s been an unbelievable weekend, and I couldn’t have asked for more. It’s all really thanks to Alex Franklin, without whom I would never have got such a good dressage mark.”
McEwen, a former Pony European team gold medallist, won a team gold medal on Private Rudolf at the Young Rider European Championships at Blair Castle (GBR) two weeks ago. He has decided to defer a university place and continue riding from his home in Wiltshire, where his father, Bobby, is a vet. He trains with Rodney Powell and Alex Franklin and will be spending his bursary on further training.
The 12-year-old Dry Old Party, owned by Jess Meed, was bought from Pippa Funnell, from whom McEwen has also had lessons. He is a former hurdler and was bred in Ireland by John Costello, by Undesperado, the same sire as triple Cheltenham Gold Cup winner Best Mate.
(A photograph of HSBC Bursary winner Tom McEwen is available for free download from the FEI Photo Catalogue.)
About the winner
William Fox-Pitt, 42, is the current leader of the HSBC Rankings. He has won medals at all levels and has been a member of the senior British team since 1993, winning Olympic team silver (2004) and bronze (2008) medals, world team gold, silver and bronze, plus individual silver in 2010 on Cool Mountain, and six European team gold medals, team bronze and two individual silvers. He won Badminton CCI4* in 2004 on Tamarillo, Luhmühlen CCI4* in 2008 on Macchiato and Kentucky CCI4* last year on Cool Mountain.
His six Burghley winners are: Chaka (1994), Highland Lad (2002), Ballincoola (2005), Parkmore Ed (2007), Tamarillo (2008) and Parklane Hawk (2011). Fox-Pitt won the HSBC FEI Classics™ in 2008 and 2010.
He lives in Sturminster Newton, Dorset, with his wife Alice, a television racing commentator, and their two young sons Oliver and Thomas.
1 William Fox-Pitt/Parkland Hawk (GBR) 39.7 + 0 + 1 = 40.7
2 Andrew Nicholson/Nereo (NZL) 42.3 + 2.8 + 0 = 45.1
3 Mary King/Kings Temptress (GBR) 42.2 + 1.2 + 4 = 47.4
4 Caroline Powell/Lenamore (NZL) 42.8 + 0 + 8 = 50.8
5 Jonathan Paget/Clifton Lush (NZL) 52.7 + 0 + 0 = 52.7
6 Clea Phillipps/Lead The Way (GBR) 50.8 + 2.8 + 0 = 53.6
7 Boyd Martin/Neville Bardos (USA) 49.7 + 0 + 4 = 53.7
8 Andrew Nicholson/Avebury (NZL) 42.8 + 0 + 12 = 54.8
9 Lauren Shannon/Zero Flight (GBR) 52.7 + 2.8 + 0 = 55.5
10 Zara Phillips/High Kingdom (GBR) 46.5 + 5.2 + 4 =55.7
Full results on www.burghley-horse.co.uk
HSBC FEI Classics™ Leaderboard in 2011 (after 4 out of 5 events)
1 Mary King (GBR) 38 points
2 William Fox-Pitt (GBR) 25
3 Piggy French (GBR) 20
4 Mark Todd (NZL) 15
5 Andreas Dibowski (GER) 15
6 Andrew Nicholson (NZL) 14
7 Caroline Powell (NZL) 13
8 Sandra Auffarth (GER) 12
9 Clayton Fredericks (AUS) 12
10 Sinead Halpin (USA) 10