One of the most successful eventing combinations of recent years has taken the lead during the early stages of the Dodson and Horrell Chatsworth International Horse Trials.
William Fox-Pitt and the magnificent chestnut stallion Chilli Morning, the most successful British eventing combination of recent years, took the lead during Friday, May 13.
The pair, winners of Badminton 2015 plus championship medals at world and European level, are on the excellent score of 37.0 at the halfway stage of the dressage phase of this prestigious competition which, this year, will be a crucial Olympic selection trial for riders from all nations.
British riders Izzy Taylor from Oxfordshire, riding Allercombe Flora (score 38.7), Nicola Wilson from North Yorkshire (Bulana, 42.6) and Gemma Tattersall from West Sussex (Chico Bella P, 41.3) are currently in second, third and fourth places, all vying for a place on the British team heading for the Rio Olympic Games in August.
The sight of Fox-Pitt, a regular visit to Chatsworth and a team silver medallist at London 2012, was a particularly thrill for spectators as he has only competed lightly so far this season following a serious head injury at a competition in France last October.
William Fox-Pitt said: “We’ve got a way to go before we beat Michael Jung, the reigning German Olympic champion, but I’m very pleased considering this is Chilli’s first big outing this season. He’s got such an amazing temperament for a stallion and it’s just great to be back here at Chatsworth.”
Fox-Pitt will also compete Cool Mountain in today’s Event Rider Masters class, the first leg of an innovative new series for the world’s top-ranked riders. Fox-Pitt, a former world number one, is currently ranked 10th in the world.
Australian rider Christopher Burton, the current world number two, and New Zealander Sir Mark Todd, number three, will also be in action as will British Olympians Kristina Cook and Zara Tindall (nee Phillips) plus leading riders from France, Germany, the USA and China.
A strong Irish contingent has descended on Chatsworth and one of their number, Oxfordshire-based Austin O’Connor, has already won prizes. He was first and third in the Dubarry Burghley Young Event Horse Class for five-year-olds with Kate Jarvey’s Six O’ Clock Somewhere and his own and his partner Amy Crerar’s Watermill Gonzalo.
Lincolnshire-based Ros Canter, who came second on Quite Something, had an enviable dilemma when she rode three horses into the top 10 in the four-year-old section and had to scrabble around for spare jockeys to perform the final gallop.
She managed to persuade Frenchman Cyril Chatel to hastily don riding clothes to ride Landlord, and this proved a good decision as the horse finished third, while Ros herself won the class on G Star Van De Klinkenberg.
Ros said: “You don’t like to plan for these things and then you wish you had.”
Ros had taken over producing the winning horse when owner Sharon Bayston suffered a shoulder injury.
Saturday’s visitors to the Dodson & Horrell Chatsworth International Horse Trials are ensured a feast of entertainment.
As well as the show jumping and cross-country action for the novice and one-star international classes, there’s scurry driving, falconry, the hilarious Sheep Show, arena eventing and dog agility and a gundog demonstration.
Sam Horrell, Chief Executive of Dodson & Horrell, said: “It’s been an excellent first day which has set the stage for an action-packed weekend. Chatsworth looks amazing and the weather forecast looks good ahead of an exciting weekend of competition and family entertainment. We are thrilled to be a part of it.”