Lexington, Ky., April 25, 2010 -- I wouldn't suggest going to William Fox-Pitt of Great Britain for any tips on how a three-day event might turn out. His feeling about Rolex Kentucky? William wasn't expecting to collect the $80,000 first prize with Cool Mountain in the horse's first 4-star start, but he said of his countryman, Oliver Townend, "I was sure he'd win it."
So what happened? On his sixth try at the Kentucky Horse Park, William won, leading from dressage through the victory gallop, adding nothing to his 42.8-penalty score in either cross-country or show jumping. Meanwhile, Ollie, as I told you yesterday, had a "cruncher" of a fall with Ashdale Cruise Master at the 20th of 30 cross-country jumps and had to spend the night in the hospital.
"You just never know," shrugged William, moments after posing for scores of photos in the winner's circle of the new stadium.
"It was fantastic to finally win here. I've been very impressed and surprised by my horse all week. He's a real trier." When recalling how he didn't count on keeping his lead throughout the event, he commented, "I wasn't being modest, but he has come out of this competition a better horse without a doubt. He's learned an awful lot. "
However, when it comes to prognostications, I'd like to take a little bow. I predicted that Phillip Dutton would win on Woodburn, and in a sense, he did. He finished second with a clean show jumping round, and as the highest-placed American, he earned the U.S. championship (William obviously wasn't eligible for that.)
Woodburn couldn't make it to Badminton this week as planned because of the havoc the Iceland volcano wreaked on air travel, but he put in a worthy performance that underlined why he looks like U.S. team material for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games that will be held here this fall. I asked Phillip to assess this weekend in terms of Woodburn.
I should mention that Phillip has the strongest string of any U.S. rider. He also finished sixth on The Foreman and has Truluck and Connaught waiting in the wings.
Okay, I've given you the basic results. Now let me fill you in about Ollie. As you know, he was going for the elusive $350,000 Rolex Grand Slam, awarded to anyone who wins the Mitubishi Motors Badminton and Land Rover Burghley horse trials and Rolex in succession.
The Grand Slam jinx persisted, however (it's only been won once.) Ollie cracked his sternum, collarbone, shoulder and four ribs, when he was involved in that rotational tumble as his horse rolled over him. Luckily, he was saved from a far worse fate by his Point-Two safety vest, which inflates like an airbag when a rider falls.
Ollie thinks everyone should wear one, and I see his point. Although he was sore and moving gingerly, asking people not to make him laugh, he was in good enough shape to return to the park today, when the announcement of his presence brought a cheer from the crowd. Needless to say, he couldn't have even begun to think of riding ODT Master Rose, his first mount cross-country, who had been in seventh place. Anyway, it will be three weeks until he is allowed to compete again because the fall knocked him out.
Still, he was able to look on the bright side.
"I was really pleased with both horses until the point of disaster, but at the same time, we'll all live to fight another day..." said Ollie.
Reconstructing the accident at the first element of The Hollow, rails that led down to two steps, he said, "The horse was going unbelievable, he was giving me a real good spin, everything was coming up on good distances.
"I do feel he did just make a mistake...and didn't basically get high enough, but at the same time, it was a cruncher of a fall and I can't remember much of it beyond the point of take-off," he continued, noting he was "lucky to have survived it."