British Open eventing title to Andrew Nicholson

British Open Championship winners Andrew Nicholson and Averbury, with owners Mark and Rosemary Barlow.
British Open Championship winners Andrew Nicholson and Averbury, with owners Mark and Rosemary Barlow.

Andrew Nicholson won his third British Eventing Open title on Sunday at Britain’s Gatcombe Park, riding the classy grey Avebury.

The combination added just 0.4 penalty points to their dressage score to finish on 38.5. He was also seventh on Nereo on 49.9, opting for a slightly quieter trip across the country for 7.6 time penalties.

“I am very pleased,” said Nicholson. “Avebury is a good horse and has been second here in the open before … he deserves the win. He’s a very economical jumper who doesn’t waste any time over the fences, and felt very comfortable round here.”

Avebury, who is owned by Mark and Rosemary Barlow and who just last month won the CIC3* at Barbury, is Nicholson’s reserve horse for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games later this month. He is sitting on a hat trick for the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials in September.

“This is a very important event for preparing for the worlds and Burghley.”

It’s been another busy weekend for Nicholson, with eight horses entered across the grades, but he does it for very good reason. The atmosphere and crowds at both the showjumping and cross-country was unlike anywhere else for the youngsters.

“This is a top place to come, even if you don’t win. I have had a fall today and stops yesterday, but I bring very young horses here.”

“A visit to Gatcombe wouldn’t be complete without going home with a few grass stains,” he joked, in reference to his tumble earlier in the day from his Intermediate Championship ride, Urma BK.

“It is a great training place for the future for horses for the big events. I would love to win with them all but I don’t expect to. Avebury has fallen here before and Nereo has stopped. It is all part of the training ground and a buzz to ride it.”

He found the Captain Mark Phillips designed cross-country course “twistier” than past years but says it was probably done to slow combinations up and make the riders work harder. “I prefer them how they used to be but I am just getting old!” he said.

Nicholson has previously won the open in 2011 aboard Nereo and in 2002 on Mallards Treat.

Francis Whittington was crowned British National Champion after finishing second aboard Catherine Witt’s Easy Target on a score of 40.

Last to set out around the’ 24-fence Open Championship course, Whittington, who had retained his dressage lead with a faultless showjumping clear, clocked up 4.4 time penalties.

“I am delighted with him, but I’m cross with myself for wasting time in a couple of places,” he said. “I lost half a second when I made a poor decision at the BETA Lane Crossing (fence 7ab) [where he stumbled up the step] and then I let him cruise quietly over one of the oxers in the next field – I should have kept the pressure on and kept riding forwards.”

Completing the top three was Louise Harwood, who rode Whitson around the course for just 0.4 of a time penalty. “He’s been nothing but consistent this year,” said Harwood.

Australia’s Paul Tapner (Indian Mill) finished fourth, Lucy Wiegersma (Mr Chunky) came fifth, while crowd favourites Nicola Wilson and Opposition Buzz rounded up the top six.

Of the other New Zealanders, Criag Nicolai and his own Just Ironic were 30th on 74, while Mark Todd and Oloa placed 35th on 85.9. Both picked up faults in both the showjumping and cross country phases.

Tim Price and his own Bango were third in the intermediate championship.

• British rider Beanie Sturgis, who fell from Wizard Of Aus  at fence 13abc (the Equibuild Complex) in the open class, was taken by road to Southmead Hospital in Bristol to be examined for a suspected fractured pelvis. The horse, who also fell, was transported back to the stable area where he was examined by a vet as a precautionary measure.

Novice Championship winners William Fox-Pitt and Top Biats.
Novice Championship winners William Fox-Pitt and Top Biats.

Novice championship

William Fox-Pitt collected his 12th Festival of British Eventing title when he piloted Judith and Jeremy Skinner and David and Margie Hall’s Top Biats to victory in the Martin Collins British Novice Championship.

Fox-Pitt and the classy seven-year-old by Corofino led from the start, posting a dressage score of 23.3 and adding just six time penalties across the country.

Top Biats, for whom this was a fourth win on the trot, came from the same French stud as Fox-Pitt’s four-star ride, Oslo.

“”He was only 16.1hh when he was four. I almost picked up the phone to [smaller jockey] Harry Meade – but I’m glad I didn’t as he’s now 17hh,”” Fox-Pitt said. ““He’s a great all-rounder and he finds it all very easy.””

Fox-Pitts only slight heart-in-mouth moment came at the top of the Vetoquinol Steps (fence 9abcd), when for a split second the rider looked keener to make the descent than Top Biats.

“”He’s basically a bold horse, but I think the steps shocked him it little – some horses do have a good look at it,”” he said.

Runner-up was Andrew Heffernan and the mare Lawless Lil, who added just 1.6 time penalties across country to her dressage score of 30.

““She’s a very good jumper, but very strong across country,”” Heffernan said of the seven-year-old, who is owned by her breeder Wendy Penny.

In third was Sharon Hunt, who partnered the smart chestnut Loughnatousa Fabio.

One of the last of the day to go across country, this pair were the only ones who stood a chance of toppling Fox-Pitt from his perch, but although Hunt had her foot flat to the board, four time penalties kept them in third.

Intermediate championship

William Fox-Pitt collected his second national title in two days when he headed the Smith & Williamson British Intermediate Championship with Catherine Witt’s eight-year-old grey Luxury FH.

The pair lay second after the dressage on a score of 26.4 and added just 5.6 time penalties across the country to finish on 32.

“He wasn’t ready to come here and race round inside the time,” said Fox-Pitt, for whom this was a fifth British Intermediate Championship win. “He’s quite a cheeky, spooky horse who gets easily distracted and likes to have a laugh. He’d never experienced anything like the main arena atmosphere before and I think he singled out every single spectator to look at during his showjumping round.”

The gelding came from Carol Gee in Ireland as a four-year-old. He finished second in his first CCI2* event in Tattersalls, Ireland, earlier this year.

Runners-up Ian Wills and Diana Brodie and his own 10-year-old gelding Say I Do shot up the leaderboard from 11th after dressage after posting one of the quickest rounds across country for just 2.4 time penalties.

In third was British-based New Zealander Tim Price and Bango, another pair to record a double jumping clear.

Speed merchants Oliver Townend (Shearwater Touchingwood) and Ruth Edge (The Winter King) both made up for knocking one and two coloured poles respectively by finishing inside the optimum time across country to occupy fourth and fifth.

Sara Squires and the thoroughbred stallion Sula Blue completed the top six.

Advanced Championship

Ireland’s Aoife Clark moved up from fourth after the dressage to win with 34.2 penalties on Fenya’s Elegance, with six British riders filling out the rest of the top 10.

In second was Nicola Wilson and Watermill Vision on 38.9, with Tina Cook and De Novo News third on 47.6. She was also fifth on Star Witness (49.8) and eighth on Calvino II (51.4). Wilson and Annie Clover finished in sixth with 50.0 penalties, and Novice and Intermediate championship winner William Fox-Pitt was 10th on Bay My Hero with 52.5.

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