New Zealand’s Jock Paget has triumphed in an extraordinary climax to Britain’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials, fourth leg of the HSBC FEI Classics.
Paget, who is the first Badminton debutant to win since fellow Kiwi Mark Todd won on Southern Comfort in 1980, had been at great pains to tell people that he had so far never jumped clear in the finale of a CCI4*. But this time, he and Clifton Promise were quietly flawless, as indeed they had been throughout the entire competition in which the spotlight had been focussed on the tussle between Jung, Nicholson and Fox-Pitt.
In an almost unbelievable scenario, the usually faultless Michael Jung (GER) and La Biosthetique Sam, leaders after first two phases, hit the very last rail of the competition and dropped to second place.
The Rolex Grand Slam challenge evaporated in a split-second when William Fox-Pitt (GBR) and Parklane Hawk hit the last part of the treble at fence 7 to drop from third to fifth place.
Andrew Nicholson (NZL) had already jumped clear on Nereo to rise one place to third, but when Paget produced his foot-perfect round, Nicholson had to accept that the Grand Slam quest was over for him too.
Nicholson, who has the considerable consolation of extending his lead in the HSBC FEI Classics, admitted that the dollar signs flashed past his eyes when Fox-Pitt hit a fence. “I certainly saw a lot of money for a moment,” he laughed.
He has now completed Badminton 33 times – more than any other rider – but it was only his second time in the top three. “But I have thoroughly enjoyed the whole weekend,” he said. “It’s been very exciting, which is great for the sport, and great for New Zealand where eventing has even been getting ahead of the rugby in the news.”
Of Paget, he said: “He’s a great boy – a great rider. It’s great for New Zealand to have someone like Jock in the wings here. It’s good for the likes of me and Mark who are getting on a bit to have ones like him from our country making us very alert and very focused.”
After the disappointment of not winning, Nicholson said: “Yeah, it’s not the first time. I’ll be back again. I’m very happy with my horses’ performances. I just think it has been great for the whole sport all week – I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of the ‘razzamatazz’ and the buzz of it all and I was just pleased that I could play my part until the end.
“It would have been nice to win the $350,000 but I didn’t have it to start with, so I haven’t lost it, have I! Perhaps I’ll try and win Burghley and get the ball rolling again!” Nicholson said.
William Fox-Pitt, who finished fifth on Parklane Hawk, said: “Luck wasn’t quite on our side but he has performed so well all week with a reasonable amount of pressure from both me and externally – horses can only pick up on that a little bit and he has responded so well and to come out and perform like that is exciting and rewarding.”
Of missing out on the Grand Slam, he said: “I couldn’t have won Badminton and the Rolex Grand Slam, with the two going together, but finishing fifth is great. It is a big relief – it will be nice to return to life as normal – with the phone not ringing all the time and people wanting interviews!
“It has been an exciting experience and I am very fortunate to have been able to enjoy it and hope it has done a lot for the sport and a lot for Rolex and a lot for Badminton.”
Equestrian Sports New Zealand high performance coach Erik Duvander said the well-deserved win was something Paget had been building up to for a while.
“I believed strongly that Jock could win – they’ve come into the competition with the horse in top form and I never doubted he could pull it off,” he said. “Many say they would rather win Badminton than the Olympics … in the eventing world, Badminton is the glory one to win.”
He also had plenty of praise for Nicholson.
“He is just such a machine. It was so tight at the top that any of those five or six could have won with a little luck on the day. Andrew really is the ultimate sportsman.”
Ironically, Jung, who won his Olympic gold medal thanks to a last-fence error by Sara Algotsson-Ostholt (SWE) at Greenwich Park last summer, has been training Paget during the winter and he was amused by the suggestion that he might have done too good a job. “I’ll be training with Jock now,” he joked.
The German, a popular new face at Badminton, was sporting in defeat. “Sam was jumping with a lot of power and I thought I had a good line to the last, but perhaps I was going too fast,” he said. “I am still very pleased with my second place and to be at my first Badminton.”
Eight nations were represented in the top 12 in one of the most international line-ups seen at any CCI4*, and 65 of the 84 starters completed the competition. There were 20 clear jumping rounds without time penalties.
Ten years ago, Paget, 29, had not even ridden at an international event. He was an apprentice bricklayer in Sydney, Australia, when he first started riding. “I knew when I came to Badminton that I had two great horses and that I could win, but didn’t actually think I was going to,” said the modest Paget, who was also 14th on Clifton Lush.
“Until now, I’d made a few little mistakes at CCI4* level but I kept knocking at the door. When I was a teenager, I watched Badminton on video, but the idea of winning it was certainly a distant dream.
“I was just thinking one fence at a time,” said Paget of his showjumping round, admitting that the victory hadn’t really sunk in. “I came here knowing I had two great horses and that I could win … both horses did everything I asked of them and that was enough.”
He, owner Frances Stead, the Kiwi riders and supporters did not watch Jung’s showjumping round and when the cheer went up they figured the German had won. But it was quickly followed by a groan … and then the celebrations began.
“I’ve spent time with Michael and he is such a perfectionist. When he gets to the last fence you would never expect him to have it down and I heard the crowd cheer and I thought he’s a champion – he deserves it. And then I heard the “arrghh” and I thought ‘shoot, I think I’ve just won!” Paget said.
Of his clear round, he said: “It’s the first time the horse has finished on his dressage score at a three day event. He’s always been the type of horse that pulls something amazing out when you need him the most and that’s what he did. I don’t think it ever feels easy with the pressure, but he was amazing – he was jumping everything as hard as he could like he does and he never made a mistake – he was perfect.”
Paget finished Badminton on his 39.7 penalty point dressage score, with Jung adding four faults to finish on 40 and Nicholson on 40.2 for third.
Paget – known in the sport as Jock – started riding at the age of 18 in Sydney, Australia, his family having moved from New Zealand in 1986. He started training with Kevin McNab in Queensland and progressed from never having jumped a fence to competing at CCI3* level in two years.
After the 2007 equine influenza outbreak in Sydney, Paget returned to New Zealand and started riding Frances Stead’s Clifton horses. His first CCI4* was Kentucky in 2010 where he was finished seventh and was subsequently selected for the Kiwi squad for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in 2010, where he again finished seventh individually on Clifton Promise.
Paget has been based in Dunsfold, in the south of England, working closely with Todd and Nicholson, since February 2011. He was part of the bronze medal New Zealand team at the London Olympic Games in 2012, finishing 10th on Clifton Promise.
His other CCI4* results include two fifth places at Burghley, in 2011 and 2012, on Clifton Lush, plus sixth at Kentucky and second at Pau last year on Clifton Promise. He is now second on the HSBC FEI Classics leaderboard.
Clifton Promise is a 14-year-old New Zealand bred thoroughbred gelding, by Engagement (by Alydar) and out of Darn Style (Cautious Style x Darnley Flight). His racing name was Bachelor Boy, and he was unplaced in five starts.
Nicholson, who has completed Badminton a record 30-plus times, was also 11th on Avebury (owned by Mark and Rosemary Barlow and Nicholson), with Paget 14th on Clifton Lush (owned by Lucy Allison and Frances Stead).
Caroline Powell was 21st on Onwards and Upwards (owned by Cameron and Mary Crawford and Powell) and 33rd on Boston Two Tip (owned by Alan Bell and Powell).
Training bursary for Sarah Ennis
Ireland’s Sarah Ennis, who finished 38th on Sugar Brown Babe and won the $1,000 HSBC Training Bursary for the most successful first-time CCI4* completion, has been competing internationally for 20 years but had never been to Badminton before.
In 2012, she was second at Tattersalls CCI3* and was longlisted for the Irish team for the London Olympic Games. She also won the autumn Ballindenisk CIC3* (IRL) on BLM Diamond Dulux and was third on Sugar Brown Babe.
Ennis, 38, lives in Dunboyne, Co Meath, and runs Stellor Sport Horses. She is married and has a three-year-old son.
Sugar Brown Babe, an Irish Sport Horse, is an 11-year-old mare by Porsch, owned and bred by Miriam Murphy.
Compatriot Aoife Clark produced an impressive show jumping performance to finish eighth overall. Piloting the Irish Sport Horse Master Crusoe, the 31-year-old from Naas was lying 16th after dressage on Friday. The combination climbed four places on Saturday to hold 12th position overnight, and on Monday collected just one time fault on the challenging final phase to secure an eighth position on the leaderboard.
Clark, who finished overall seventh at the London Olympics last year with Master Crusoe, was one of eight Irish riders who qualified for this year’s Badminton event.
Carlow’s Sam Watson finished just outside the top 20 with the Irish Sport Horse Horseware Bushman, four faults in show jumping leaving him in 22nd overall.
Elizabeth Power also put in a strong show jumping performance, one fence down with the Irish Sport Horse September Bliss giving her a 26th place.
Other Irish places included Joseph Murphy in 52nd, Jim Newsam in 55th and Michael Ryan in 63rd. Peter Hannigan was eliminated during the cross country phase.
Leading the US charge was Tiana Coudray and Ringwood Magister, who finished in 17th place. The pair completed the dressage in equal 10th place with a score of 43.3 and two time penalties on the cross country kept them in 10th heading into the show jumping. Two rails for an additional eight penalties left them in 17th place at their first Badminton.
Also making their Badminton debuts were Clark Montgomery and Colleen Rutledge. Montgomery (Wiltshire, UK) and Universe moved up from 48th following the dressage to finish 27th by way of clear jumping and 6.4 time faults on the cross country and faultless jumping in the final phase. Rutledge and her own Shiraz became the only combination to complete all five CCI4*s in the Northern Hemisphere. They moved up from 77th following the first phase and just added four time faults across the country, six rails in the show jumping meant they finished in 57th on a score of 91.2.
Bloodlines at Badminton
The Czech-bred thoroughbred stallion Heraldik was well represented this year. The former grand prix showjumper and world number one eventing sire was responsible for Sam Griffiths’ Happy Times (15th), Ingrid Klimke’s FRH Butts Abraxxas (16th), Kai-Steffen Meier’s TSF Karascada M (23rd) and Andreas Dibowski’s Butts Leon (eliminated at the final horse inspection). He is also the dam-sire of runner-up La Biosthetique-Sam.
Those at the top of the leaderboard represent a diverse range of bloodlines. The winner, Clifton Promise, is a New Zealand thoroughbred, as is fifth-placed Parklane Hawk, who is by Grosvenor out of a mare by Brilliant Invader, sire of many international event horses including 1996 Olympic gold medallist Ready Teddy.
Of the remaining top five, third placed Nereo was bred in Spain by former rider Ramon Beca and is by the thoroughbred Fines out of Berganza by the Hanoverian Golfi, while Sandra Auffarth’s Opgun Louvo is French-bred Selle Francais by Shogoun II, who was an international show jumper under Philipe Le Jeune and Eric Navet.
The highest placed ex-racehorse in this year’s field was Tom McEwen’s ride, the 13-year-old thoroughbred Dry Old Party. He ran seven times during his two years in training with Peter Winkworth. He is by Un Desperado (sire of three time gold cup winner Best Mate) out of a mare by Torus. Elizabeth Power’s September Bliss (26th) also started life on the track. He was previously trained by Jessica Harrington in Ireland and ridden in races by Elizabeth’s brother, Robert. He is by Norwich (a son of Top Ville) out of mare by Good Thyne.
Reporting: Kate Green, Diana Dobson, Colin McLelland; Rolex; Badminton Horse Trials; USEF.
» Click image at right to view full results
1 Jonathan Paget/Clifton Promise (NZL) 39.7 + 0 + 0 = 39.7
2 Michael Jung/La Biosthetique Sam FBW (GER) 36.0 + 0 + 4 = 40.0
3 Andrew Nicholson/Nereo (NZL) 40.2 + 0 + 0 = 40.2
4 Sandra Auffarth/Opgun Louvo (GER) 41.3 + 1.2 + 0 = 42.5
5 William Fox-Pitt/Parklane Hawk (GBR) 40.0 + 0 + 4 = 44.0
6 Stefano Brecciaroli/Apollo VD Wendi Kurt Hoeve (ITA) 36.8 + 6 + 4 = 46.8
7 Vittoria Panizzon/Borough Pennyz (ITA) 47.3 + 0 + 0 = 47.3
8 Aoife Clark/Master Crusoe (IRL) 45.8 + 0.8 + 1 = 47.6
9 Astier Nicolas/Piaf de B’Neville (FRA) 49.3 + 0 + 0 = 49.3
10 Christopher Burton/Holstein Park Leilani (AUS) 43.0 + 2.4 + 4 = 49.4
11 Andrew Nicholson/Avebury (NZL) 45.0 + 0 + 6 = 51.0
12 Rebecca Howard/Riddle Master (CAN) 51.3 + 0.8 + 0 = 52.1
HSBC FEI Classics leaderboard (after 4 of 6 events)
1 Andrew Nicholson (NZL) 40 points
2 Jonathan Paget (NZL) 27
3 William Fox-Pitt (GBR) 26
4 Michael Jung (GER) 22
5 Craig Barrett (AUS) 15
6 Natalie Blundell (AUS) 12
7 Murray Lamperd (AUS) 10
8 Sandra Auffarth (GER) 8
9 Buck Davidson (USA) 8
10 Jessica Manson (AUS) 8
Images below © Mike Bain