Norfolk’s Piggy French takes advantage at International Horse Trials
Until the very last fence, William Fox-Pitt and Avoca Alibi was on his way to winning the first Nations Cup at the Subaru Houghton International Horse Trials.
However, a rookie mistake cost him the competition: he jumped the wrong final fence, resulting in elimination, leaving the way clear for Norfolk's Piggy French and Jakata to sail through into the lead, with a fast double clear.
'He was amazing in all three phases,' said Piggy of her star horse, owned by Wally French and Michael Underwood.
French was also quick to praise the organizers – Alec Lochore and the Musketeer EventManagement team – who managed to squeeze in extra entries to accommodate the massive field.
'They've done a great job especially taking loads of entries on late. It's been hectic for me,' she added before grinning, 'But then it's always hectic!'
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French's win ensured the home team of herself, Mary King, Francis Whittington and Sarah Cohen took first place in this team event.
Whittington thought that the Nations Cup format was a great success and praised the cross country course, which seemed to ride well throughout the event
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'The course had a lovely flow and asked the right questions,' he said. 'It was great to have a course like this to come back to competition.'
Houghton was a key test for riders hoping for Olympic selection, and the event attracted riders from around the world – as well as Olympic team selector Yogi Breisner.
'It's been a great competition and it's amazing to see all three phases together in this wonderful setting. The relaxed approach here allows spectators to get close to the action, which is great for the sport,' he commented.
When asked about his thoughts on the Olympic squad, Breisner understandably kept his cards close to his chest.
'I'm grateful for the potential Olympic run and pleased with the way all the horses are competing today,' he said.
'The Nations Cup team winning on home ground is great, they've not let us down and I'm very pleased with all the horses that are on good form on the back of two months away from big competition.'
Fox-Pitt may have scuppered his chances at Houghton, but most believe his place on the Olympic squad is assured, and now thanks to French's excellent performance it's looking good for Norfolk's star eventer too.