New Zealand’s Andrew Nicholson provided the fairytale ending to this year’s Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, taking out the four-star event for the third time in a row on his home-bred grey Avebury, with Kiwi team-mate Jock Paget second on Clifton Promise.
Nicholson, who picked up £62,000 for the win, also sprang into a bonus fourth place in the FEI Classics, although William Fox-Pitt’s (GBR) position at the head of the leaderboard never looked in doubt. His fourth place at Burghley with a beautiful clear jumping round on Bay My Hero was enough to clinch the title for the fourth time since the series began in 2008.
When Sam Griffiths (AUS) and Happy Times hit two fences to drop a place to third and Oliver Townend dropped from overnight third to eighth with an unfortunate four rails down on Armada, Nicholson was left a two-rail breathing space over Paget and Clifton Promise who had jumped an immaculate clear that was to bring them up into the runner-up spot and £45,000.
With just 12 clear rounds on the Richard Jeffrey course from the 39 riders that started the final show jumping phase, Nicholson entered the arena knowing he needed a good performance in order to be crowned the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials victor and become the new Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing ‘live contender’.
The atmosphere was tense with silence falling amongst the crowd for Nicholson’s round. Avebury was looking full of energy as they entered the ring, 13 jumps away from making history and becoming the first horse and rider combination to win Burghley consecutively over three years.
Mark and Rosemary Barlow’s intelligent grey seemed to know exactly what he had to do, and Nicholson coolly kept him in the perfect outline and rhythm to jump clear for just two time faults.
The packed grandstands went wild as the established partnership neatly jumped over the final double, producing a clear round and claiming victory at Burghley once more.
“I can assure you that I didn’t feel that cool!” said Nicholson, who admitted to feeling the strain. “He’s a good jumper but I knew I’d got to keep calm and confident. It was tempting to speed up at the last two fences, because I knew I was heading for time faults, but I decided to stay in a rhythm because I really wanted to win with a clear round.”
He added: “This isn’t just about me, it’s about the team at home – I’m just lucky enough to ride the horse. I’ve had a bad year – I shouldn’t have fallen off at Badminton and then I really wanted to win a medal in Normandy and didn’t – so I’ve put myself under a lot of pressure. Winning this means an awful lot.
“For me, I’ve had a very bad year this year, I threw away Badminton on Nereo, and I shouldn’t have fallen off when I did. The World Equestrian Games, I was ninth when I wanted to get a medal so I’ve been putting quite a lot of pressure on him to win here. Hopefully I will be able to go to Kentucky and go for the Rolex Grand Slam but I am a little light on horses at the moment, so we will assess in February and see how we are going,” Nicholson said.
Three horses were withdrawn before the jumping phase including, unfortunately, Hannah Sue Burnett’s Harbour Pilot, from seventh place, and one was eliminated at the final horse inspection, first-timer Roo Fox’s (GBR) Fleet Street.
There were 14 clear Jumping rounds from the 38 finishers, with Australia’s Murray Lampard finishing best of the 17 first-timers in 10th place on Under the Clocks. Gemma Tattersall, a stalwart member of Britain’s FEI Nations Cup squad, was the second best of the home side, rising 22 places after dressage to finish fifth on Arctic Soul.
Badminton winner Sam Griffiths, who has been established in Britain for many years and was competing in his eighth CCI4* on the 15-year-old Happy Times, finished second in the FEI Classics from Oliver Townend, the 2009 winner, who slipped a place to third. Luhmühlen winner Tim Price hung on for fifth place behind Andrew Nicholson, just edging out the Adelaide winner Christopher Burton (AUS).
“It was fantastic to win again,” said Fox-Pitt. “It’s all down to my horses. Seacookie got it off to a great start at Pau last year and Bay My Hero was brilliant at Kentucky. But then I had a fall at Badminton and withdrew Cool Mountain at Luhmuehlen and it was all looking a bit patchy. The FEI Classics is a great addition to our sport.”
Despite picking up £34,000 for third, there was disappointment for Australia’s Sam Griffiths, who was aiming for the second leg of the Rolex Grand Slam of eventing. “I always knew the last line was going to be difficult for this horse, he had a rail down early on and apart from that I don’t think he touched a fence so yeah, I was quite disappointed to come out two down. It’s a very tense atmosphere, the horses have to be so good after jumping round that course yesterday. I really wanted to try and win for him here, he really deserves a four star win.”
Images below © Mike Bain
Andrew Nicholson (NZL), 53, has long been acknowledged as one of the most hard-working and naturally talented horsemen in eventing. The current world number two first came to England 34 years ago as a 19-year-old to work with racehorses. His first CCI4* was Badminton in 1984 where he earned a place on the first ever New Zealand Olympic team, at Los Angeles.
He went on to ride at five more Olympic Games, winning team silver in 1992 and team bronzes in 1996 and 2012, where he finished fourth individually on Nereo. He also won team gold at the FEI World Equestrian Games 1990 on another horse owned by Rosemary Barlow, Spinning Rhombus.
Andrew has won numerous CCIs – this is his fifth Burghley win, and his third in a row on Avebury, following victories in 1995 on Buckley Province and 2000 on Mr Smiffy. He has also won three other CCI4*s: Pau in 2012 on Nereo, Kentucky in 2013 on Quimbo and Luhmuehlen in 2013 on Mr Cruise Control.
His fifth Burghley win equals the record of Mark Todd (NZL) and Ginny Elliot (GBR). New Zealand riders have won Burghley 13 times since 1987.
Andrew is married to Wiggy, who rode Avebury as a novice; he has two adult daughters, Rebecca and Melissa, and two young children, Lily and Zach. They live near Marlborough, Wiltshire.
Andrew Nicholson bred the 14-year-old Avebury from Jumbo, a stallion he competed to CCI3* level, and a racing-bred thoroughbred mare Memento (formerly Bairn Free). Avebury is named after ancient earthworks near the Nicholsons’ home. He is the only horse in history to win a CCI4* three times in a row – Kimberly Severson’s Winsome Adante has won Kentucky three times, though not consecutively – and only the second CCI4* winner bred by the rider (following Mary King’s Kings Temptress, winner of Kentucky in 2011).
FEI Classics winner William Fox-Pitt
William Fox-Pitt, 45, has won 52 CCIs, including a record 13 CCI4*s: Badminton (2004), Burghley six times (1994, 2002, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2011), Luhmuehlen (2008), Kentucky three times (2010, 2012 and 2014) and Pau twice (2011 and 2013). He is the only rider to have won five out of the world’s six CCI4*s.
Fox-Pitt is the current world no 1 and this is his fourth FEI Classics title since the series started in 2008; he also headed the leaderboard in 2008, 2010 and 2012.
He has also represented Britain 18 times in championships, most recently winning world team silver and individual bronze on Chilli Morning last weekend at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy (FRA). His medal tally includes Olympic silver (2004 and 2012) and bronze (2008), world team gold and individual silver on Cool Mountain (2010) plus team silver in 2006 and team bronze in 2002. He has six European team gold medals, one team bronze, two individual silvers (1997 and 2005) and individual bronze last year on Chilli Morning.
Fox-Pitt, is married to Alice, a television racing commentator. They live near Sturminster Newton, Dorset, and have two sons, Oliver and Thomas, a daughter Chloe and another baby due this month.
Final results at Burghley
1. Andrew Nicholson/Avebury (NZL) 40.5 + 5.6 + 2 = 48.1
2. Jock Paget/Clifton Promise (NZL) 38.8 + 16.4 + 0 = 55.2
3. Sam Griffiths/Happy Times (AUS) 40.2 + 9.6 + 8 = 57.8
4. William Fox-Pitt/Bay My Hero (GBR) 39.5 + 20.8 + 0 = 60.3
5. Gemma Tattersall/Arctic Soul (GBR) 53.0 + 11.2 + 0 = 64.2
6. Bill Levett/Improvise (AUS) 48.7 + 17.2 + 0 = 65.9
7. Izzy Taylor/Briarlands Matilda (GBR) 48.3 + 11.2 + 8 = 67.5
8. Oliver Townend/Armada (GBR) 48.3 + 6.8 + 16 = 71.1
9. Jonelle Price/The Deputy (NZL) 53.5 + 17.6 + 0 = 71.1
10. Murray Lamperd/Under the Clocks (AUS) 50.2 + 18.8 + 10 = 79.0
FEI Classics 2013/2014 Leaderboard
1 William Fox-Pitt (GBR) 38 points, $40,000
2 Sam Griffiths (AUS) 25, $35,000
3 Oliver Townend (GBR) 23, $25,000
4 Andrew Nicholson (NZL) 21, $15,000
5 Tim Price (NZL) 17, $5,000
- The Land Rover Perpetual Challenge trophy to the winning owner: Rosemary Barlow
- The Burghley Challenge cup to the winning rider; Andrew Nicholson
- The Henry Tate Challenge cup to the owner of the second horse: Frances Stead & Russell Hall
- The Sugden Challenge trophy to the rider of the second horse: Jock Paget
- The Stamford Challenge trophy to the owner of the third horse; Steve & Dinah Posford, Juliet Donald and the rider
- Land Rover Perpetual Challenge trophy miniature for the highest placed British rider competing for the first time at Burghley: Paul Sims
- Dege & Skinner of Savile Row voucher for bespoke riding coat to the highest placed rider Under-25 and not entitled to the adult Union flag; Harry Dzenis
- Sport Horse Breeding (GB) bronze to the horse sired by SHB(GB) stallion finishing in the top 12: Avebury by Jumbo
- Twemlows scholarship for two embryo transfer to the highest placed British-bred or domiciled mare completing in top 20: KBIS Briarlands Matilda
- Supporters of British Breeding prize to the breeder of the highest placed British-bred horse in the top 6: Andrew Nicholson – Avebury
- Bouvet Ladubay presented a jeroboam of Sparkling Saumur to the winning rider and a magnum to the athletes placed second and third.
- A plaque will be awarded to all owners whose horse completes the competition and also to any rider completing the competition who is not the owner of the horse.
Images below from the final trot-up © Mike Bain