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William Fox-Pitt on target for 50th career win at Blenheim

Saturday, September 8, 2012 - 19:00

William Fox-Pitt has taken the CCI*** lead after a thrilling cross-country day in the CCI*** at the Fidelity Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials and is now on target to score the 50th three-day event victory of his illustrious career.

Riding Catherine Witt’s Seacookie, he does not have a fence in hand over another of the all-time greats, New Zealander Mark Todd, who is lying second with 2.4 time penalties on a chance ride, Rodney Powell’s Conair, a horse he has only ridden once before.
Kristina Cook, William’s team mate at the Olympics, where they were both part of the silver medal-winning British quintet, is in third place with 0.8 of a time penalty on De Novo News, and is also within a show jumping fence of the leader. 
William retired Seacookie on the cross-country at Burghley last weekend because the horse had missed a lot of work and did not appear to be enjoying it. This time, Seacookie flew, finishing bang on the optimum time of 10 minutes 21 seconds.
“That was a big difference to last week,” said an elated William. “Retiring was a bit of a shock and made me wake up. But I knew Seacookie was a real four-star horse when he picked up so well at the table to big corner fence 24 (the Abingdon & Witney College Bar).
William is the only rider to have finished first and second in the Blenheim CCI, which he did in 2000 on Stunning and Tamarillo.  Mark Todd is currently lying in second place, who won the CIC at Blenheim on Land Vision in 2010.  The veteran Kiwi commented: "We had one or two hairy moments but the horse keeps going and he keeps jumping. Blenheim is a proper three-star track this year, perhaps a bit bigger than it has been recently, and that’s a good thing as it will set horses up well for Badminton.”
The dressage leader, Christopher Burton, disappeared from the reckoning with an unfortunate stop on Underdiscussion at the Salmon Leap (fence 23), a brush fence coming out of the water, and Tim Boland, second after dressage, incurred 16 time penalties when GV Billy Elliot’s travels across the world caught up with him near the end of the course.  Ingrid Klimke, third on Tabasco, had a run-out at the influential Ariat Europe Dew Pond (fence 6) and Lucy Wiegersma, fourth, slipped to seventh place with 8.4 time penalties on Simon Porloe.
44 of the 89 starters had clear rounds, with six inside the optimum time.
The course-designer, Eric Winter, commented: “It’s big track all the way and the more experienced riders tended to come to the top. The influence of the Jeep Corners (fence 16) surprised me; I expected most riders to take the right-hand side whereas most early riders took the left-hand side but as the day went on more riders realised the right-hand side was easier.” 
Andrew Nicholson’s chances in the CCI with Viscount George evaporated with a refusal, but last weekend’s Burghley winner leads the field ahead of cross country tomorrow, on Libby Sellar’s Spanish-bred mare Quimbo.