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GB in Gold medal position
Britain’s eventing team have climbed into Gold position and individual silver following an incident packed cross country day at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. We hold the slimmest of margins over the American team with Canada not far behind. Germany’s Michael Jung holds a commanding lead in the individual standings over Britain’s William Fox-Pitt while Rebecca Holder from the USA is third.
Before the start of the day, the riders had all said that Mike Etherington-Smith’s cross country course was large with plenty of questions and a true Championship track. It proved to be just so with a number of nations and riders encountering problems around the track but on the whole it was a good day at the office for the British squad.
Our pathfinders were once again Nicola Wilson riding Rosemary Search’s Opposition Buzz and they rode the perfect round to get the team off to an inspiring start with a clear round inside the time. After her round, Nicola said; “I had a fabulous ride from start to finish. There were lots of questions, especially towards the end so you had to have your wits about you from start to finish. He was awesome! We’ve been together a number of years now and built up a lot of trust and understanding. Going first didn’t bother me; I know my job and get on a do it. The team orders were to take all the straight routes but I’d rather that as it suits my style.”
Next was the second team member, William Fox-Pitt with Teresa Stopford-Sackville’s Cool Mountain, the horse he won the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event here with in the Spring. Although the course was much tougher today then on that occasion, William piloted the horse home in true style for a second clear round inside the time. A delighted William said; “He felt fantastic and gave me a superb ride. I was aware of the troubles some of the early riders had but Nicola gave us such a great start and was inspiring. I’m fortunate through UK Sport lottery funding to have been to Lexington many times so know the terrain well plus this horse had been here for which I’m very grateful. Our main team instruction from Yogi Breisner, our Chef d’Equipe was that that time faults were unforgivable so I didn’t let him down.”
It was then the first of our individual riders Pippa Funnell, who’s back in a British squad after a five year absence. Riding Roger and Denise Lincoln’s Redesigned, Pippa showed that this talented young horse deserved his trip on the plane with an exciting clear. She said; “I’m chuffed to bits. I hadn’t meant to set out that quickly but he just took hold and was quite keen. I realise now he’s really a year off being ready for this level when I look back at my previous top horses like Supreme Rock and Primmore’s Pride but he coped with all the direct routes. He’s got so much scope and jump.”
Our second individual rider followed, Individual European Silver medalist, Piggy French with her relatively new partner, Wally French and Michael Underwood’s Jakata and they were one of the rounds of the day to go clear with just 1.6 time penalties. An elated Piggy said; “This was good experience for us as we’re still getting to know one another and coming here was completely unknown territory. He got very excited before we set out but I managed to get him in a rhythm and keep it. He’s a lovely horse and has it all. We’re a proper partnership know! He’s a good jumper for tomorrow but you never know what today will have taken out of him.”
With two good team rounds under our belts, it was the crucial third member to go next and none more appropriate than the Olympic double bronze medalist and reigning European champion Kristina Cook with Nicholas and Valda Embiricos and Sarah Pelham’s Miners Frolic. They looked to have had a near perfect round when it was announced they had crossed their tracks when having to take evasive action at the water. It was a blow to the team and also to Tina’s individual chance too. She commented; “I’m very disappointed if they have given me a run-out, we’ll need to review the video. Up until I heard the news, I was thrilled with my round. I had to put my foot down and I’m not renowned for my speed. It’s a cleverly designed course with lots of questions, but safe questions. He was fabulous.”
After three horses from each team, Britain had the gold advantage but the teams still had some of their best combinations to come so it was down to anchorwoman Mary King with Mr & Mrs E Davies and Janette Chinn’s Imperial Cavalier. Their round was one of their best and Mary clearly enjoyed every second to go clear inside the time and maintain our lead. Mary said; “Absolutely loved it! He’s been wanting to go fast all week and finally got his chance! I was well up on the clock and I knew the third last was causing problems and the final two weren’t jumping well so I took the long route and steadied for the last just to make sure. The ground was perfect on the course. Before I went, Yogi (Breisner) said to me, ‘Mary, just go out and do what you do best’ so I did. Focus is now on the show jumping and it will be nerve wracking to the end.”
So six horses and riders safely home with 20 jumping penalties and 1.6 time penalties to add in total and the team in gold and William in individual silver, not a bad day’s work.
Trot up is 9:00am (local time) with the show jumping starting at 12:45 (estimated local time).
Full results from the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games website.
14. March 195
photo Cheltenham jockey club
14. March 219
photo Cheltenham Racecourse