Grand Slam hopes end for Fox-Pitt

Dorset Echo: TENSE FINALE: William Fox-Pitt riding Parklane Hawk at the Rolex Kentucky event TENSE FINALE: William Fox-Pitt riding Parklane Hawk at the Rolex Kentucky event

WORLD number one William Fox-Pitt’s hopes of landing the Rolex Grand Slam have been dashed after this weekend’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials were cancelled because of a waterlogged course.

The Sturminster Newton star was hoping to be more than £280,000 richer if he had collected the £65,000 Badminton winner’s purse, as this would have guaranteed another prize of just under £220,000 as only the second rider to achieve a Grand Slam.

Badminton director Hugh Thomas said: “The recent exceptional rainfall has left the ground at Badminton totally waterlogged and partially flooded. Further rain is due this week, leaving no chance of the ground drying out.”

The Grand Slam is awarded for consecutive Burghley, Kentucky and Badminton victories in any order, but it is nine years since Britain’s Pippa Funnell swept the board, which underlines the considerable degree of difficulty involved.

Fox-Pitt secured victory at Rolex Kentucky, his second triumph in three years, aboard his 2011 Burghley champion Parklane Hawk after a tense showjumping finale at the weekend.

Fox-Pitt, courtesy of his overnight lead after cross-country, was last to go in the show-jumping phase, but he held his nerve amid intense pressure.

Second-placed combination Allison Springer and Arthur had four faults, so Fox-Pitt enjoyed the luxury of one fence in hand. They also ended with four faults, but a score of 45.3 proved enough.

Parklane Hawk had the first part of a double down halfway around the show-jumping course, but the combination never looked back after that.

Fox-Pitt said, after his win at Kentucky: “It was a huge relief. The pressure was on us when we hit the fence, but I thought to myself not to panic. He is a super jumper and a fabulous horse to ride.

“He normally jumps a clear round, but he was kind of messing around, not really looking at the fences.

“Parklane Hawk has only done one four-star before, and he has shown how good he is in all three disciplines, although there is room for improvement in the dressage.

“He’s a big trier, and not a confrontational horse. He has adapted to eventing very quickly from racing – he is an amazing horse.”

Fox-Pitt is set to spearhead Britain’s Olympic medal bid at Greenwich Park in late July, with Parklane Hawk now a strong Games contender, although his performances on Lionheart and Oslo at Chatsworth next month will be closely monitored.

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