William Fox-Pitt’s bid for Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials seven heaven got off to a rocky start on horse Oratorio II writes James Reid.
The six-time champion scored 30.2 in their dressage test, with any score sub-30 seen as highly competitive, but the performance wasn’t up to the three-time Olympic medallist’s high standards.
The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials is back in 2022 for the first-time since 2019 after two years away due to Covid-19, with anticipation high for one of eventing’s biggest dates in the calendar.
And the Hinton St Mary-based rider admitted he still gets nervous when competing at such a prestigious event.
“It wasn’t very good really,” revealed Pitt. “It’s a shame but on to tomorrow, hope I don’t fall off. That was a bit disappointing.
“I’ve never come to Burghley expecting to win, I’ve just been very lucky six times.
“I’d hoped this year we might have a chance but I think now we’re going to be rather too lucky.
“That’s annoying, this I hope is a Burghley horse. He’s never done Burghley before but I’m very hopeful, he feels good.
“Every competition is different, it’s another start and it’s still pretty nerve-wracking.”
The score leaves Fox-Pitt, one of the most decorated eventers of all-time, in the middle of the pack ahead of Burghley’s renowned cross-country course, seen by many as the world’s toughest eventing has to offer.
This year comes with further intrigue as Tokyo Olympic course designer Derek di Grazia is making his debut after taking over from Captain Mark Phillips.
Phillips designed the courses around the rolling Lincolnshire hills for over 30 years over three stints before stepping down in 2019, meaning there are some unknowns for eventers more familiar with the course.
And Fox-Pitt believes the American Di Grazia has set a fiendish course for riders to get their heads around.
“It’s a good track, he’s got us thinking,” added Fox-Pitt. “There are some clever lines, you’ve got to work out what suits your horse.
“It’s got to be quite reactive to what’s going on, he’s put in some clever little questions.
“Derek is very clever and he’s given it a lot of thought, we’ve only had two days to look at it so there’ll be more to digest.”
Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (1-4 September 2022) returns after a two-year hiatus, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. A major international sporting and social event for over 50 years it attracts 80 of the world’s top equestrians and over 170,000 visitors. For more information visit www.burghley-horse.co.uk