Kiwi team moves up to fourth in eventing

October 3, 2010

A perfect round by anchor rider Andrew Nicholson on Nereo has pulled the New Zealand team up to fourth overall, and he is in fifth place individually.


Mark Todd and Grass Valley


Caroline Powell and Mac Macdonald

"It all went exactly as we planned after walking the course," said a very happy Nicholson after the ride around the 6400m course.

All roads led to the Kentucky Horse Park this morning as thousands filed in through the gates to watch the cross-country. Traffic was backed up for miles and the rather spectacular water jumps had hundreds of people packed around them hours before the first horse was even due on the course.

The jumps were visual spectaculars themselves, with the first jump sporting 10,000 plants on it. There were four water elements on the course, and plenty of options for riders whose horses were tiring or who felt daunted by the challenge before them.

The course was beautifully presented and the weather near perfect through to the final rider.

Time allowed on the course was 11 minutes 14 seconds, meaning horses had to truck along at 570 metres a minute. For every second they were over the time, they picked up a 0.4 time penalty, with a stop or a run-out earning 20 faults and a fall instant elimination. Three stops also meant elimination.

Jonathan Paget (Muriwai) and Clifton Promise rode the round of their lives to finish in 11th place overall on 46.4 in the individual field.

His efforts drew plenty of praise from eventing guru Mark Todd, who has been coaching the promising young rider.

"It was a truly fantastic effort," said Todd.

Paget put much of his success back on the 'three wise men' of the New Zealand team - Todd, Nicholson and eventing chef d'equipe and coach Erik Duvander.


Jonathan Paget and Clifton Promise


Andrew Nicholson and Nereo


Clarke Johnstone and Orient Express

"They've been so helpful to me, and you only need to look at the improvement from when I rode here alone in April, and now."

Paget thoroughly enjoyed riding the very big and challenging course.

"It was just amazing," he said. "It has to be the smoothest ride of my life."

Todd was also very pleased with his horse NZB Grass Valley, who finished the day in 16th place overall with 50.1 penalty points. "He was brilliant all the way."

The only change he made was three from home when he felt Grass Valley was a little tired so he went for the safe option. The horse was still rather inexperienced at this top level, so his efforts were all the more appreciated.

On the team front, Todd said everyone had done just as they were asked.

"Clarke Johnstone was a little unlucky having that stop at 24 (five from home), but Orient Express was tired."

And Caroline Powell and Mac MacDonald had been extremely solid with their clean and clear finish.

Duvander was happy, describing Todd as a genius, Powell just amazing throughout her "rock and roll all the way" ride, Paget, a great up and coming talent, Nicholson brilliant and Johnstone unlucky.

"It was a real team effort and everyone was out there sticking to the plan and doing their bit."

Great Britain is leading the teams, sitting on 139.4 from their best three, with hosts United States second on 143.3, Canada third on 147.5 and New Zealand on 150.8. It's a big drop back to fifth place Germany on 192.7.

Overnight dressage leader Michael Jung (Germany) on La Biosthetique-Sam FBW added nothing to his score after a pristine effort over the cross country course, so leads on 33 heading into the final phase tomorrow.

William Fox-Pitt (Great Britain) on Cool Mountain is sitting second on 42, Rebecca Holder (United States) on Courageous Comet third on 42.5, Ingrid Klimke (Germany) on FRH Butts Abraxxas in fourth on 42.9 and Nicholson on 43.5.

With a rail costing four faults, the individual gold is most definitely up for grabs, while the team is a little tougher.

Of the 79 combinations who started the cross country, 17 were eliminated and two retired. All left in the field will face a trot-up in the morning, before being allowed to continue.