Fox-Pitt is over the Moon, while Grayling enjoys down under, hat-trick
Emphasing the truly international nature of the series, Fox-Pitt trounced a field of 40 at Burnham Market (GBR), while Grayling triumphed for the third successive year at the Mitavite-sponsored Kihikihi Horse Trials in New Zealand. Both riders led from the start in their respective competitions and both enjoyed comfortable winning margins.
Fox-Pitt, riding his CIC specialist Moon Man, the horse on whom he became British National Champion in 2005, was easily the fastest (4.8 time penalties) across country. Only Rodney Powell (GBR), eventual fourth on a score of 66.2 with his Badminton entrant Liquid Ice, scored single figure time penalties (8) around a strong track built by Hugh Lochore.
There was early drama when three out of the first four across country were eliminated for horse falls at the water complex. An element was removed thereafter, but the next rider to go, Clare Chamberlayne (GBR) on Astronave, had the misfortune to get her route wrong over the modified complex and was also eliminated.
Fox-Pitt's speed gave him a massive lead after cross-country, but he was to need this, as Moon Man hit two show jumps. They finished on a score of 59.1, less than a rail ahead of Paul Tapner (AUS) on Inonothing (63.0), who jumped clear. Last year's FEI Eventing World Cup Champions, Clayton Fredericks (AUS) and Ben Along Time were also clear to finish third (63.6).
There were three Australians in the first six, as Clayton's wife Lucinda was fifth on Headley Britannia (66.8), beating Pippa Funnell (GBR) and Ensign who had the same score but were slower across country.
Swedish riders are currently blitzing the British scene and nine of them contested this qualifier. Linda Algotsson, the former dual FEI Eventing World Cup Champion, finished best, but she dropped from second to eighth on her 2004 Eventing World Cup winner My Fair Lady with two show jumps down.
Moon Man, who was found in a trekking stable in Ireland by the dealer Vere Phillipps, has an interesting history and famous connections. He is part-owned by Sally Johnston (nee Faber), a former weather girl, on British TV, and has recently been used to give riding lessons to the pop diva Madonna.
The horse has been placed at four-star level, but then developed an enigmatic tendency to stop himself across country; however, a spell foxhunting with Fox-Pitt's wife Alice combined with the shorter CIC format seems to have proved to his liking.
Fox-Pitt, who finished fourth in the 2005 FEI Eventing World Cup final in Malmo on Ballincoola, and Grayling are now joint sixth in the FEI Eventing World Cup rankings with Robyn Fisher on 100 points.
Grayling, a dairy farmer from Taranaki, New Plymouth, travelled across the world to compete in the 2004 FEI Eventing World Cup final on Revo, who finished eighth. Now he hopes to gain selection for the FEI World Equestrian Games this year on the Montgomery family's NRM Gordon, who has won at Kihikihi twice running.
At this, the 10th anniversary of horse trials at Kihikihi, he finished on a score of 63.1, 10 penalties ahead of Kate Wood (NZL) on Staccato (73.1). Annabel Wigley (INZL) was third on Black Drum (76.3).
Australian judge Gill Rolton described John Nicholson's cross-country course, which features fences based on a OEWinnie the Pooh, theme, as: ,a world-class coruse, which is tough and right up there. 0/00 She said: ,I,d like to bring some Australian riders over next year. 0/00
Matthew Grayling also described the track as being of ,international standard 0/00. Eleven horses started the competition, with eight completing. Chelsey Hawthorn (NZL), fifth on Look At That (70.5), was the only rider to take all the direct routes and was by far the fastest, with just 1.6 time penalties.
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