Goodbye to Badminton Winner Chilli Morning: ‘He was Loved Around the World’

William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy. Photo by Jenni Autry.

We’re sad to report that Chilli Morning, the Brandenburg stallion best known for his Badminton-winning partnership with William Fox-Pitt, has died at the age of 20 at his retirement home, Tattleton Stud in West Sussex.

Says owner Chris Stone in a statement, “Lisa [Stone] and I are very sad to say that Chilli Morning has passed away this morning. He had been hacking over the weekend and yesterday as normal, and was in his own turnout paddock this morning when he suddenly collapsed. He died instantly.

“Chilli was known and loved around the world as the most successful stallion the sport of eventing has ever seen. His competition record was outstanding and he was also very successful as a sire. However, his biggest impact for Lisa and me has been the most amazing memories he has given us. Thanks to all those who cared for him over the years, especially to the team at Fox-Pitt Eventing and more latterly to Gemma [Tattersall], Charlotte [Overton, head girl] and the team here at Tattleton.”

William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Chilli Morning (Phantomic XX x Koralle) leaves behind an unrivalled legacy as arguably the sport’s most successful stallion. He was produced through CCI5* (then CCI4*) level by Britain’s Nick Gauntlett, with whom he enjoyed top-ten finishes at Blenheim, Gatcombe, and Houghton Hall, where they won the CCI4*-S. The 16.3hh stallion would then move to Mary King, though the partnership wasn’t to last for long — after running Chilli in a national-level class, Mary conceded that the horse was a man’s ride.

And so it was that William took the reins in early 2012, partnering the stallion to an initial international run in a CCI3*-L at Houghton before their first major victory in the CCI4*-L at Bramham. They would finish fifth at Pau CCI5* that year, before winning Bramham again in 2013 and duly taking up a spot on the British team for the European Championships that summer in Malmö, where they finished in individual bronze position.

This quick trajectory set off a long period of successes. In 2014, the pair would win Bramham yet again — though this time, the CCI4*-S class — and record a top-10 finish at Aachen before picking up another bronze medal and a silver team medal at the Caen World Equestrian Games.

William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy. Photo by Jenni Autry.

But it was the horse’s sole international run in 2015 that will arguably be the one he’s best remembered for in the years to come. That year, the pair would head to Badminton Horse Trials — and they’d ultimately win it, too, displaying a level of partnership that had been seasons in the making, allowing them to overtake Andrew Nicholson, who had led throughout but had a disastrous showjumping round. After a tense moment in which William and Chilli took the only rail they could afford, they regrouped and finished without further faults, making Chilli Morning the only stallion ever to win Badminton.

The following year — the final of Chilli’s career — would be the year of the Rio Olympics, though the week wouldn’t quite go to plan for Team GB’s eventers. Chilli and William duly led the dressage and would go on to jump two clear rounds in the final phase, but a rare and unfortunate 20 penalties on cross-country scuppered their medal hopes, and they settled for 12th place individually. Nonetheless, the week was a poignant one, as it saw William take up the team mantle for the first time after his nearly career-ending accident at Le Lion d’Angers the previous year.

“Chilli was a truly fantastic horse,” says William. “How lucky was I to have ridden him for five years? As the first-ever stallion to win Badminton he will never be forgotten, and he really deserves his place in the history books. What a life he has had and just how much he gave me and everyone here at Fox-Pitt Eventing.”

William Fox-Pitt and Chilli Morning. Photo by Jenni Autry.

Since his retirement at the beginning of 2017, Chilli has been based at the Stones’ Tattleton Stud, where Gemma Tattersall runs her busy string. Though his time in the spotlight may have come to an end, his contribution to the yard — as well as to the industry at large — has continued on, with a busy breeding partnership with West Kington Stud creating a significant legacy, and the stallion himself continuing to teach Gemma’s staff as well as enjoying his time spent as a loyal hacking partner for Chris.

Several of Chilli’s progeny are competing at the top level of the sport, and his breeding legacy will continue in the form of three stallion clones and a stock of frozen semen. At Tattleton, he’ll be remembered every day by his offspring, who all share a distinctive copper sheen and broad, bold blazes. For each, now, the goal will be to try to leave their own mark upon the sport — though trying to eclipse their sire will be a tall order.

“It goes without saying that we are all heartbroken today,” says Gemma in a statement on her Facebook page. “We loved and cherished this boy more than anyone will ever know and are the luckiest team in the world to have had the privilege of looking after such a wonderful horse. We are also incredibly lucky to have some of his special babies here with us who we have no doubts will follow in their father’s footsteps! Goodnight Chilli, sleep tight.”

Team EN extends our most heartfelt consolations to all of Chilli’s connections.