William Fox-Pitt to ride Clifton Signature

Clifton Signature's future looks rosy now he has another classy rider!

Jock Paget and Clifton Signature in full flight at Aachen, but now Jock is in New Zealand, William Fox-Pitt will take on the talented horse. (Image: Libby Law)

William Fox-Pitt has a new four-star horse and it is none other than Clifton Signature, who has been campaigned previously by Jock Paget. When Jock decided to come home to New Zealand, Clifton Signature’s owners, Frances Stead and Russell Hall wanted to keep the 12-year-old Hanovarian thoroughbred cross on that side of the world.

“We bought ‘Signature’ as a four year old in 2011 with WEG 2018 and Tokyo 2020 in mind,” said Frances. “We want him to compete against the best in the world on a regular basis, so thought it best he stayed in the northern hemisphere.”

Of course finding the right rider for the horse was a priority and who better than William Fox-Pitt, whose latest Badminton champion, Chilli Morning, retired to stud recently. William holds the world record for the most four-star wins – an amazing total of 14.

William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning on their way to winning Badminton. In doing so, Chilli Morning became the first stallion ever to win a four-star eventing crown (Image: Libby Law)

William is excited about having Signature in his stables. “He has had some very good results with Jock over the years and he is still in his prime being only 12-years-old, so there is a lot to look forward to with him.”

Naturally Frances is delighted with the new arrangement. “William gave Signature a trial recently, and got on really well with him,” she said. “I think William will really suit the horse, and while we are very sorry that Jock is not continuing to ride Signature, we are delighted that he has ended up in another top stable. The way things have worked out at the moment, he will be William’s only current four-star horse.”

Jock Paget and Clifton Signature produced some lovely dressage tests. (Image: Libby Law Photography)

Frances has always rated the horse. “We called him Clifton Signature as he was clearly very classy and we thought it appropriate to call him Signature – as he will be the signature of future Clifton eventers.”

William plans on taking Signature to Nunney Horse Trials for their first event together, subject to conditions being favourable. “I am actually taking him to Houghton with the one-star horses with the idea to make the most of the extra few days to get to know him,” William said.

Event Rider Masters classes are on the initial competition plan for Signature and William, but the longer term plan is for William to retain the ride, and find owners to take him on, or potentially syndicate the horse in which case Frances and Russell are hoping to retain some shares in him.

Jock Paget enjoying his lovely round on Clifton Signature at Rolex Kentucky (Image: Libby Law)

Jock is pleased to see a horse he really likes go to William. “Signature is a very classy horse,” he said. “With a top rider like William, I expect to see some good results once they get to know each other. He has been a really fun horse to produce and I look forward to seeing him out and about at the big events. I’m very grateful to Frances and Russell for giving me the ride on him and wish William all the best with him.

Jock and Frances have shared a lot of special moments including this one at Clifton Promise’s retirement ceremony at Badminton. (Image: Libby Law Photography)

Signature, by Espri LB, out of Madame La Rouge, who is by Happy Melody, had been “ticking over” at Kevin McNab’s yard after Jock moved home to New Zealand. Jock had always taken Signature very slowly since first riding him as a four-year-old. Together they completed three four-star events, placing 7th at Pau in 2016, 14th there in 2015 and also 14th at Kentucky in 2016. The pair were also fifth at Blenheim in the CIC3* in September 2016, the last time Jock and Signature competed together in the UK.

Good luck William and Signature!