Paget stripped of Burghley title ahead of June hearing

Jonathan Paget and Clifton Promise at the beginning: the first trot-up on Thursday morning at Badminton.
Jonathan Paget and Clifton Promise at Badminton last year. © Jane Thompson

New Zealand eventing rider Jock Paget has been formally stripped of his Burghley title in a move engineered to clear ongoing uncertainty around individual standings as the northern hemisphere season cranks up.

The disqualification of Paget and his mount, Clifton Promise, was handed down by the FEI Tribunal today after Paget pushed for the matter to be dealt with ahead of the main hearing over the discovery of the long-acting sedative, reserpine, in the horse’s blood.

The main hearing in the case is set for June 3 in London.

Details released in the case now reveal the nature of Paget’s defence.

The FEI Tribunal’s ruling on the disqualification made mention of his “no fault and no negligence” defence.

Equestrian Sports New Zealand confirmed that Paget had submitted a “comprehensive dossier of evidence” in January explaining and supporting such a claim.

Paget and Clifton Promise filled the top spot at the Burghley CCI4* last September.

Paget, as the person responsible, has accepted that reserpine was found in the horse and requested in a letter earlier this month that the FEI Tribunal, prior to the full June hearing, rule separately on the automatic disqualification from Burghley.

The tribunal panel, chaired by Pierre Ketterer, considered the request. It ruled that Clifton Promise and Paget were disqualified from their first placing at Burghley and that all points and prize money won at the event by Clifton Promise must be forfeited.

As a result of the decision, the Burghley placings, rider rankings and FEI Classics standings have been amended.

That clears the pathway for fellow New Zealander Andrew Nicholson to vie for eventing’s biggest prize, the Rolex Grand Slam.

Andrew Nicholson and Avebury finished second.
Andrew Nicholson and Avebury have been promoted to first place at Burghley 2013. The combination also won in 2012. © Mike Bain

ESNZ stressed the early partial ruling in the case was a result of a specific request made by Paget and that he had the support of the New Zealand national body in doing so.

Paget has not contested the presence of the banned substance in the horse, detected in a blood sample taken after the Burghley win. The result was subsequently verified by testing of the B sample, carried out in France.

ESNZ says Paget is clear that all available evidence shows that neither he nor anyone else knew of the presence of the banned substance before the sample was taken.

However, as the Person Responsible for Clifton Promise under eventing rules, he accepted that a rule violation had occurred.

The British-based rider was aware that the ongoing uncertainty over the Burghley title was harming eventing and especially the buildup to the first two major events of the northern hemisphere season – this weekend’s Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event and the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials from May 8-11.

He therefore asked, in his letter to the FEI Tribunal on April 7, for it to take the unusual step of ruling on his disqualification early rather than waiting for June.

The disqualification would ultimately have been automatic, regardless of whether he succeeds in his defence.

The tribunal accepted the point of Paget’s request, saying: “… a ruling on the automatic disqualification from the Event in advance of a full hearing was of importance for the reputation and integrity of the sport …”.

The FEI Tribunal, in its partial ruling, traversed some of the facts in the case, but avoided any details around his no fault and no negligence defence, aside from acknowledging that was the nature of his case.

The tribunal said it invited the FEI to comment on Paget’s request before making a ruling.

The FEI had responded that, given the circumstances, and in particular Paget’s acceptance of the rule violation, it did not have any objection to the disqualification being dealt with early.

The June 3 date of the full hearing will result in Paget sitting out many of the major northern hemisphere events.

Andrew Nicholson and Jonathan Paget after the Burghley Horse Trials.
Andrew Nicholson and Jonathan Paget after the Burghley Horse Trials. © Steph Freeman


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