British Olympian William Fox-Pitt became the first winner of a showpiece class at the inaugural Cornbury House Horse Trials and declared that he was “daring to dream a little” after his victory in the CCI2*-S on the exciting youngster Centurian Bay.
The Irish-bred gelding is owned by Oxfordshire-based Robert and Pep Glenn – Robert bought the handsome seven-year-old last year as a golden wedding present to his wife and the horse was named for a combination of their 50 years of marriage and William’s 50 years of age.
“We came here as I knew the organising team at Cornbury House would make it an occasion,” explained William, a former world number one. “I wanted a bit of ambience and excitement and they’ve really put in on. What they’ve done is brilliant.”
William, who won classes at Cornbury’s earlier incarnation as Cornbury Park Horse Trials, in the 1990s, on such star horses as Chaka, Stunning and Tamarillo, described designer David Evans’s cross-country course as educational and varied.
“Centurian Bay has learned a lot. There was every type of fence and it was on lovely ground. I’m really excited about this horse – there’s something about him. He’s keeping an old man happy, anyway!” he said.
Archie Smith-Maxwell, who scored his first international win in the NAF Youth Performance CCI2*-S, wasn’t even born when there was last a horse trials in this spectacular park. Aged 17, he is juggling schoolwork – he is a pupil at Oakham School in Rutland – with competing five horses.
His winning mount, Akolien, was given to him by former international rider Judy Bradwell.
“The mare had had time off and the deal was that if we got her sound, we could keep her, so I’ve put in a lot of time riding her on the roads,” explained Archie.
Georgie Spence brought a successful day to a close with a win in the major CCI3*-S class on Uppercourt Cooley, a horse she bought last year and intended to upgrade to 4-star level – a project that has had to be put on hold.
“It’s worked well, though, because he had a few cross-country issues and I’ve been able to take him back to basics,” explained Georgie of the Irish-bred 12-year-old owned by Molly Fisher, Lucy Fleming, Nicky Cooper and Sam Wilson. “He’s one of those horses that always does his best. He’s a flashy mover, a good jumper and honest across country – he ticks every box.”
It was a first visit to Cornbury for Georgie, who is from Chippenham, Wiltshire.
“I absolutely loved it and am praying the event can have a 4-star class next year. It’s proper old-fashioned, country-house eventing in a parkland – it’s like a championship course you can really get your teeth into.”
There were happy memories for Katie Bartlett (nee Whybrew), a competitor at Cornbury in the 1990s, as she watched her 19-year-old daughter Georgia lift the NAF Youth Performance CCI3*-S class on the diminutive chestnut Jalba O.
Until the pandemic struck, Georgia, who is based at Greenham, near Newbury, was hoping to get on to the British Young Rider squad. She recently upgraded Spano De Nazca to 4-star level, so the cross-country course did not hold too many worries.
“It was a good, strong course, which is what I prefer,” she said, “and it was lovely doing dressage in front of Cornbury House.”
Cornbury House Horse Trials will take place from 10-12 September 2021.