Leading eventer Avebury retired at 16: “He owes us nothing”

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Andrew Nicholson and Avebury at home at Westwood Stud.
Andrew Nicholson and Avebury at home at Westwood Stud. © Edward Whitaker/Racing Post Books

Andrew Nicholson’s leading eventer Avebury has been retired from competition and the three-time Burghley 4* winner will not take his place at Badminton.

One of the most successful event horses in history, the 16-year-old is the only horse to have won Burghley CCI4* three times (2012-2014) and the Barbury Castle CIC3* four times (2012-2015). He accumulated 2113 British Eventing points during his career.

British Open Championship winners Andrew Nicholson and Averbury, with owners Mark and Rosemary Barlow.
Andrew Nicholson and Avebury, pictured with owners Mark and Rosemary Barlow, after the combination won the British Open Championship in 2014.

Avebury was bred by Andrew Nicholson and is known at home as “Buddy”, a nickname given to him as a foal by Andrew’s daughters, Rebecca and Melissa. He is owned by Mark and Rosemary Barlow.

“This is a day we were all dreading. He has served us so well and after his last gallop he wasn’t showing his normal exuberance and zest for life. Sadly old age has begun to catch up with him, and he deserves a well-earned rest,” Rosemary Barlow said.

“Avebury is a horse of a lifetime and owes us nothing. Sometimes in his younger years he could be a little bit naughty, but he has been a complete joy to own. He has won at every level and during his career he ran 71 times with Andrew and 11 with Wiggy [Andrew’s wife, who competed him at novice level]. He won 27 times and was placed on numerous occasions.

“Mark and I would like to thank Andrew and Wiggy and all the staff at Westwood for looking after him so well over the past 10 years. Avebury will continue to live at Westwood – a home he knows and loves.”

The grey son of Jumbo was bred by Nicholson out of a thoroughbred mare, Memento (registered racing name Bairn Free) whom he evented briefly before she had developed a cataract in one eye.

Nicholson broke in Avebury, and then sold him to go showjumping. He was successful in that discipline as a five-year-old, and then Wiggy bought him back and evented him in his six-year-old year, winning a novice event at Gatcombe on him.

Nicholson explained: “Rosemary wanted a new horse, so I said to her that I thought I knew of one … Wiggy went away for a few days, so I sneaked him up to the gallops to see what he could do. I was quite impressed, so I suggested Rosemary buy him for me to ride.”

In their first season together in 2007, they won the CCI* at Tattersalls and three intermediate classes, as well as finishing second in the British Novice Championships at Gatcombe and fourth in the World Young Horse Championships at Le Lion d’Angers.

The following year, they won the CCI2* at Tattersalls, were fourth in the British Intermediate Championships at Gatcombe and fifth in their first CCI3* at Gatcombe and won an advanced class a Aston-le-Walls.

In 2009, they took the CCI3* at Saumur and were second in the CIC3* for eight- and nine-year-olds at Blenheim, as well as winning an advanced at Powderham.

In 2011 Nicholson and Avebury were 10th at Badminton and eighth at Burghley, and in 2012 they scored the first of their multiple victories in the CIC3* at Barbury Castle and at Burghley.

In 2015, the pair took their fourth Barbury Castle CIC3* win and were preparing for an attempt at a fourth consecutive Burghley triumph when Andrew suffered the bad fall at Gatcombe from another horse which broke his neck and finished his season.

Avebury and Andrew Nicholson (NZL)
Avebury and Andrew Nicholson at Burghley. © Mike Bain

Avebury’s only run in 2016 was at Great Witchingham in March and, fittingly, he won.

“He’s part of the family, and will stay here with us. Wiggy will ride him, and no doubt my daughter Lily will put her name down for a go!” Nicholson said.

“He’s sound and well; he just doesn’t quite feel like he used to and, as he owes us nothing, we thought it better to stop now.”

He continued: “He’s got a cheeky side to him, but whenever you walk into the yard, he’s happy to see you. He loves his work and is very bubbly about everything. He’s still naughty to catch in the field – he gallops around squealing, but as soon as it rains, or he thinks something might be happening without him, he runs up and down the fence line yelling to be brought in.

“He has been an exceptional performer. He loves a big atmosphere and shows off in it, and has always been a brilliant jumper and galloper. He has always been a winner, and I have to thank him for some of the greatest days of my career.”

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