A huge cheer greeted William Fox-Pitt at the cross-country finish of the three-star class today at the St James’s Place Barbury International Horse Trials as he scored his biggest win since returning to the saddle after incurring a serious head injury in a fall in the autumn of 2015.
The last to go on Mark Phillips’s influential track, the former world number one rode with skill and determination on new ride Clifton Signature to finish just four seconds over the optimum time and seal victory over Barbury specialist Andrew Nicholson on his rising star Swallow Springs.
Barbury, with its natural amphitheatre, always throws up a thrilling contest and this will go down as one of the most memorable. ‘It’s my biggest win for ages; a great surprise,’ said Fox-Pitt, for whom it was only a second ride on Frances Stead’s Clifton Signature – a horse, formerly ridden by Jock Paget, which is for sale.
Fox-Pitt last took this class in 2005 on Ballincoola. He has won at two-star level since returning from injury, but this is easily his most pressured and high-profile victory. ‘I’m not known for winning one-day events – I usually have loads of time faults – and I wasn’t sure this morning that I was going to go for it,’ he explained.
‘But then I thought “I’ll have a go” and the horse got better and better. I like him – he’s fun, he’s no nonsense and he’s well trained and knows what to do.’
Tina Cook, who led after the first two phases on Billy the Red, withdrew before cross-country and Kitty King, lying fifth on Vendredi Biats, retired after a run-out.
British number one Oliver Townend finished third on Note Worthy and American rider Tiana Coudray, first on course and setting the standard with a sensational round inside the optimum time, eventually finished seventh on the appropriately named Inside the Clocks.
A brilliant weekend’s sport climaxed with a win in the third leg of the Event Rider Masters for Frenchman Thomas Carlile, who led throughout on his stunning grey stallion, Upsilon.
Last year’s winners, Andrew Nicholson and Nereo, could not catch him and had to settle for second place, with Sir Mark Todd third on Leonidas ll. Pippa Funnell was the best placed Briton, in fifth on Chippieh.