Photo caption: Great Britain's William Fox-Pitt and the 14-year old stallion Chilli Morning are in the lead after the first day of Eventing Dressage at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy. (Trevor Holt/FEI)
Chilli Morning and Fox-Pitt turn up the heat
By Kate Green
William Fox-Pitt (GBR) has given the British team a massive morale boost after the first day of the Eventing competition at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy, where the Dressage phase is taking place below the chateau at Haras du Pin deep in the Normandy countryside.
Fox-Pitt and the biddable stallion Chilli Morning scored the only sub-40 mark, 37.5, to head defending champion Michael Jung and the mare FischerRocana FST by 3.2 penalties.
"Chilli is lovely to ride on the flat," said Fox-Pitt, who was individual silver medallist and a member of the winning British team at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2010 in Kentucky (USA). "I'm relieved that we nailed it. That was his best test ever."
Jung's good score on the relatively inexperienced nine-year-old and Ingrid Klimke's mark of 41.2 on another mare, FRH Escada JS, despite losing marks for a tense walk and early canter strike-off, puts Germany in the lead at this early stage.
"I'm very happy," said Jung. "My horse was relaxed and didn't make too many mistakes. She also concentrated. The arena wasn't slippery, but horses were looking at the ground because of the rainwater in the arena."
The New Zealand team is currently second, ahead of Great Britain and the USA, with one penalty covering the three nations.
Tim Price (NZL) is in individual fourth place on his Luhmühlen CCI4* winner Wesko with a mark of 42.0 and Sir Mark Todd, a team bronze medallist in 2010, is 10th on Leonidas ll on a score of 49.2.
Todd explained: "There was some clapping before I went into the arena and Leo was a bit distracted and made some mistakes. He isn't used to this kind of atmosphere and the sloppy going."
The 2006 world champion Zara Phillips (GBR) didn't get the British team off to the start she would have liked and admitted to being annoyed with her score of 54.5 on High Kingdom, which leaves her in 21st place currently.
"He broke in the medium trot and my marks didn't come back up after that," she said. "He does nice work but he's not a flash horse. However, he's a real galloper and I'm hoping to bring some good feedback for the others when I go out first across country on Saturday. It's a long way round and if it stays wet then the dressage scores won't matter as much."
Cédric Lyard (FRA) is best of the home side, in seventh place on Cadeau du Roi with a score of 47.3. "I'm really happy with my horse," he commented. "Cadeau concentrated really well and was expressive. I wanted to get the best marks I possibly could for the French team and I feel that I achieved that."
The British team is hoping that the wet weather will play to their strengths on Saturday's cross country day, which riders of all nations anticipate will re-arrange the scoreboard.
Fox-Pitt commented: "It's a good track with plenty to jump. It's quite hilly and with the soft ground it's going to be a serious test. We tend to get all these conditions in England and so it should be good for us here, but the effect of the course will be cumulative and may be hard to gauge."
Jung described Pierre Michelet's (FRA) course as "a tough four-star because of the big fences and the hills" while Todd added that going early in the day could turn out to be a lucky draw. "This is a big and long track, it's hilly and it's wet. It isn't going to be a dressage competition," he predicted.
Follow all the action on FEI TV (www.feitv.org) with live scoring on www.normandy2014.com
Results after first day of Dressage
1. William Fox-Pitt/Chilli Morning (GBR) 37.5
2. Michael Jung/FischerRocana FST (GER) 40.7
3. Ingrid Klimke/FRH Escada JS (GER) 41.2
4. Tim Price/Wesko (NZL) 42.0
5. Elaine Pen/Vira (NED) 42.3
6. Philip Dutton/Trading Aces (USA) 43.8
7. Bill Levett/Shannondale Tital (AUS) 44.7
8. Nicola Wilson/Annie Clover (GBR) 46.0
9. Cédric Lyard/Cadeau du Roi (FRA) 47.3
10. Sarah Ennis/Horseware Stellor Rebound (IRL) 48.5