Jonathan “Jock” Paget stayed cool in the last few minutes of the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials to became the fifth New Zealander to lift the top prize at the British CCI4*.
Kiwi riders have won 12 of the last 26 Burghleys, but it’s 14 years ago that a rider captured both Badminton and Burghley in the same season on the same horse (Great Britain’s Ginny Leng on Master Craftsman).
Paget’s dual-winning mount, Frances Stead and Russell Hall’s 16-year-old New Zealand thoroughbred Clifton Promise, an ex-racehorse, seemed to grow in confidence around Richard Jeffery’s jumping track. He hit only the last fence, by which time the trophy, and third place in the HSBC FEI Classics series, was in the bag.
“I knew I had two fences in hand going into the arena. Promise knows his job and was jumping well in the warm-up, so I drew a lot of confidence from that and was quite calm. If I’d have had two fences down early on you would have seen me kicking and flapping a lot more!” Paget said.
“I have altered a few little things with him this year, since my training with [European Champion] Michael Jung, and now give him a little more room in front of fences. “It’s really only just sinking in that I’ve won Badminton, let alone Burghley, but I know that it’s a very special achievement,” Paget said.
“He has always meant everything to me. I have been riding him for almost six years now and he is the first horse I won something big on.”
Clifton Lush, the horse on whom Paget was lying second after the cross-country, was unfortunately withdrawn overnight due to a bruised fetlock, but he should be back in action in time for Paget to contest the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing (winning Badminton, Burghley and Kentucky in succession) next spring.
“I came here to win and it was nice to do that. It doesn’t make me feel good to beat Andrew because he has done so much for me but I came here to beat everybody, so whoever is in the field has to be beaten,” Paget said.
One of Paget’s chief mentors, Andrew Nicholson, was second, third and eighth – another record – in a Kiwi whitewash. “I brought three horses and I still can’t beat him,” the 52-year-old Nicholson joked about his former protégé.
“When Jock first came to me, in 2009, he may have looked like a monkey up a pole, but I still thought he had a lot of natural talent. What was most important was that he wanted to learn; he was always running around watching the top riders, like William Fox-Pitt and Pippa Funnell, and that’s how you become successful yourself, by looking and learning.”
No horse has ever won back-to-back Burghleys, but Nicholson came close to achieving that with second place on 2012 winner, Avebury (he was also first and second with Mr Smiffy in 2000 and 2001).
He also finished third on his 2012 Pau winner Nereo and eighth on Calico Joe and rounded off an extremely lucrative payday by scooping the $150,000 HSBC FEI Classics title for the first time. He has also extended his lead in the $50,000 HSBC Rankings, which he has led all year.
“It does feel like a great achievement to have been so consistent,” he said. “That’s really what staying at the top is all about.
“Avebury was just a bit casual, he’s normally a very big gate jumper and perhaps I was a bit casual too. But, I wouldn’t have it won it anyway – I think if I had gone clear then Jock would have jumped the last clear because he knew he could have the last down and pretty much just let that happen,” Nicholson said.
“To have Avebury win last year and coming back and be second this year; and Nereo finish third at Badminton and third here, is very pleasing as it means they’ve been very consistent – and it’s consistency that wins big competitions.”
Although nine of the 19 horses jumping in the morning session went clear, there were none from the 24 in the afternoon. Nicholson had a fence down apiece on Avebury and Nereo and, with the latter horse, overtook William Fox-Pitt (GBR) and Parklane Hawk after they hit the second and third elements of the treble at fence 10.
“I think he was still in too much of a forward gear after cross-country,” said Fox-Pitt, who finished second in the HSBC FEI Classics. “But Jock’s achievement is fantastic and I hope he enjoys the moment. This has been a brilliant competition; it was a proper four-star and the cross-country and the optimum time had exactly the right influence.”
Ingrid Klimke’s (GER) FRH Butts Abraxxas does not have the best of jumping records, but he went clear on his last CIC3* run and Klimke said she had decided not to practise in between. The strategy seemed to work well, as they only hit the third fence to rise two places to fifth.
Jonelle Richards, sixth on The Deputy with 12 penalties, and Mark Todd, seventh with four faults on the inexperienced Oloa, a horse the double Olympic gold medalist has mooted as a future championship ride, completed the New Zealand domination. European team silver medalist Ludwig Svennerstal (SWE) enjoyed his best CCI4* result so far when finishing ninth on King Bob and Kristina Cook (GBR) was 10th on Do Novo News.
Todd said he was confident of big improvements on the horizon for Oloa. “He has gone as well as I could have hoped. He had just one fence down (in the showjumping) and has tried really hard out there.
“The exciting thing for me is that we can improve a lot more yet. He has now done a four-star so we are well in contention for the World Champs (in 2014) and he is an ideal back up for some of my more established horses. It is very exciting!”
Neil Spratt won’t be disappointed with his 16th place finish on Upleadon, with Richards finishing 22nd on her Olympic mount Flintstar.
This is HSBC’s last year of sponsoring the Classics, after six highly successful years when the series has captured riders’ imaginations and led to sporting tussles of the highest calibre, most famously between Andrew Nicholson and William Fox-Pitt.
“It’s definitely raised the profile of the four-star events,” said Nicholson, who is the only rider ever to have won the HSBC FEI Classics with three 4-star victories (Pau, Kentucky and Luhmühlen). “It has made me travel to Kentucky and spend time working out what horses to take to Pau and Luhmühlen.”
Catrin Norinder, Director of Eventing at the FEI, said: “It’s been a super series for eventing and a great success and we are so grateful to HSBC for all their interest and generosity.”
She confirmed that the both the FEI Classics and the FEI Nations Cup Eventing, which has proved so popular, will continue and that plans are already in hand for reviewing both series and for seeking financial backing.
HSBC Training Bursary
The HSBC Training Bursary, worth $$000 to the most successful CCI4* first-timer, was awarded to Alex Postolowsky (GBR) who finished 36th with a clear cross-country round at her first Burghley on Paul Newbert’s Islanmore Ginger, an Irish-bred 15-year-old chestnut gelding by Giorgione.
Postolowsky, 28, is based near Burghley in Lincolnshire and earned plenty of local support. “I’ve grown up with this event, competing in the Pony Club showjumping, in the young horse classes, and as a spectator. It still hasn’t sunk in that I’ve actually competed here; it seemed an untouchable dream,” she said.
“I have J.P Sheffield [fellow rider] to thank for all this. I thought I wasn’t ready, but he said ‘if you don’t get a move on, you’ll be 62 before you ride at Burghley!’. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, yet I only decided to go for it a month ago.” The pair completed Boekelo CCI3* last year.
About the winner – Jonathan Paget
Jonathan Paget – known in the sport as Jock – has made a remarkable rise to stardom in Eventing.
He started riding at the age of 18 when he was an apprentice bricklayer in Sydney, where his family then lived, and tried his hand at the rodeo. He began training with Kevin McNab (AUS) in Queensland and progressed from never having jumped a fence to competing at CCI3* level in two years.
In 2007, Paget returned to New Zealand and started riding Frances Stead’s Clifton horses. His first CCI4* was Kentucky in 2010, after which he was selected for the Kiwi squad for the 2010 World Equestrian Games, where he was seventh individually on Clifton Promise.
Paget has been based in Dunsfold, in the south of England, working closely with senior New Zealand riders Mark Todd and Andrew Nicholson, and dressage trainer Andrew Gould, since February 2011. He has been fifth at Burghley twice, in 2011 and 2012 on Clifton Lush, and winner of the British Open Championships this year. With Clifton Lush, he was part of the bronze medal New Zealand squad at the London 2012 Olympic Games , finishing 10th. The pair was later second at Pau and, in May, they won Badminton.
Additional reporting: Diana Dobson, Burghley Horse Trials
1 Jock Paget/Clifton Promise (NZL) 36.7 + 0.4 + 4 = 41.1
2 Andrew Nicholson/Avebury (NZL) 42.3 + 0 + 4 = 46.3
3 Andrew Nicholson/Nereo (NZL) 41.3 + 2 + 4 = 47.3
4 William Fox-Pitt/Parklane Hawk (GBR) 41.5 + 0.8 + 8 = 50.3
5 Ingrid Klimke/FRH Butts Abraxxas (GER) 39.0 + 9.2 + 4 = 52.2
6 Jonelle Richards/The Deputy (NZL) 46.2 + 1.2 + 12 = 59.4
7 Mark Todd/Oloa (NZL) 48.3 + 7.2 + 4 = 59.5
8 Andrew Nicholson/Calico Joe (NZL) 48.3 + 0 + 12 = 60.3
9 Ludwig Svennerstal/King Bob (SWE) 46.7 + 10 + 4 = 60.7
10 Kristina Cook/De Novo News (GBR) 43.2 + 15.2 + 4 = 62.4