Fox-Pitt, Chilli Morning Lead Eventing After Dressage

Fox-Pitt, Chilli Morning Lead Eventing After Dressage

Great Britain's William Fox-Pitt holds the lead in eventing with the 16-year-old stallion Chilli Morning.

Photo: Dirk Caremans/FEI

It’s not everyone’s idea of the perfect rehab for a serious head injury, but Britain’s William Fox-Pitt defied all the odds to hold the lead after Olympic eventing dressage wrapped up today at Deodoro Olympic Park in Rio de Janeiro.

Riding the 16-year-old stallion Chilli Morning, the man who spent two weeks in an induced coma after a fall while competing in France last October threw down a score of 37.00.

“All along Rio has been my target, totally,” the 47-year-old rider said. “It was unrealistic, but it was mine. I was in a coma for a couple of weeks and my sight was quite dodgy, I went from blind to seeing double so when I started jumping there were two jumps. It’s been a journey, but I’ve had so much support.”

Fox-Pitt was his usual modest self in talking about his ride with Chilli Morning. “He’s good on the flat, capable of doing a very good test and I didn’t want to let him down. He felt happy and calm, but there are a lot of good horses to come and it will be what it will be.”

He noted that Chilli Morning lost a bit of weight on the journey from Great Britain to Brazil, but he’s happy with how the horse feels. “Chilli is lean, he’s fit, and well but he lost some weight on the journey here. He’s an older horse and it’s kind of his metabolism. I’ve never lost an event because I’ve been on a skinny horse! He felt good and very together, he can be a bit sprightly so I was pleased with how we went today.”

Sitting in second on a score of 37.60 is Australia’s Christopher Burton and his 9-year-old Hanoverian gelding Santano B.

Close behind in third is the French pair of Mathieu Lemoine on the 10-year-old Dutch-bred gelding Bart L on a 39.2.

Defending Olympic champion Michael Jung and his 16-year-old veteran Sam are currently sitting in fourth position, after an uncharacteristic mistake left them with a score of 40.9.

“I made a stupid mistake in canter,” Jung said. “It wasn’t because he was nervous, we just lost a little bit of communication.”

In the team competition, Germany holds a slight lead over the French contingent with 122 and 122.2 points, respectively. Team Australia sits in the bronze position with a total of 126.4.

Up Next: Cross-Country

Pierre Michelet’s cross-country track is a major talking point. Fox-Pitt described it today as “a decent course, the biggest Olympic course I’ve walked, but Chilli is more than ready, I just hope I can do him justice.

“It’s a true Michelet course, four corners and four skinnies, always committing you so that if you are not right on line then you will have a run-out, always encouraging you to attack it,” he continued. “The distances are all on the long side, it’s the most difficult Olympic Games I’ve seen but that’s how it should be. It will be a pretty good feeling if I go clear.”

He feels Chilli Morning will tackle it without difficulty however. “There are no worrying fences out there for him. Fence six (brush corners) is ugly, but the one I really don’t like is the corner to the gate (fences 23/23, The Malmesbury Cottage), there are just four strides to do it in, and with Chilli that’s a big question because he’s big and strong.”

Fox-Pitt will have plenty of support when he heads out on cross-country day. Not only is his story is one of tremendous success, enormous courage, determination, and resilience, be he’s also one of the most popular competitors in the sport. “It was great to have Rio to aim for,” after the head injury, he said. “The Games have come at the perfect time, I’m just ready in time, I’ve been very lucky with my rehab, and my physical and mental fitness is back on track.”

Cross-country kicks off at 10:00 a.m. local time (9:00 a.m. EDT) on Monday, Aug. 8.

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