It’s About Time for Andrew Nicholson
Written by Amy Bennett
A historic win for New Zealand’s Andrew Nicholson rounds off another top notch Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials after 37 attempts, with his long time equine partner, Nereo.
Lying in third position overnight, the 17 year old chestnut gelding, piloted by Andrew since he was four years old, had the weakest show jumping record of all the horses in the top three. Having only managed to jump a clear round in five of the last CCI4* competitions, the odds were against the pair but Nicholson kept his customary cool to leave up all the rails with just one time fault.
“I knew I couldn’t panic about the time,” Andrew said of the tight optimum time that caused seven of the top 20 riders to incur penalties in this final phase, “but I just had to concentrate on delivering the clear round I knew Nereo was capable of.”
Having missed out on the top spot on more than one occasion, Andrew adopted an unorthodox tactic to keep the pressure off him for today’s show jumping, “I decided before my cross country round “why not let Michael and Ingrid stay at the top, and if I can get near enough to them then I’ve done my bit and it’s up to them then.”
Maintaining his overnight position, Andrew’s fate was then left in the hands of the two German Olympic riders ahead of him. When Michael Jung entered the arena with the 2016 Badminton champion and an almost impeccable show jumping record, expectations were set. However La Biosthetique Sam FBW had an uncharacteristic fault at fence six – an oxer with a water tray underneath – and Andrew slipped ahead of him.
“Of course I am a little upset about the result and my mistake today, but I’m really happy about how he worked and our cross country,” Michael said of his double Olympic gold partner “Sam”, “It’s unbelievable how strong he is and he is feeling fit and healthy so we will continue on at big competitions for now.”
Overnight leader Ingrid Klimke then entered the arena with Horseware Hale Bob OLD, customarily a double clear specialist, but unfortunately suffered the same fate as Michael at fence six, and the wheels then firmly came off over the final combination of fences – a treble at 12 – where “Bobby” missed his stride into the first element crashing through it and Ingrid then pulled him up at the B element before circling and representing at the whole combination. Accruing a total of four fences down and seven time penalties however, dropped her down the order to 9th position.
Benefitting from the costly errors made by those above him after producing a clear round with also just one time fault, fellow New Zealander and team mate to Andrew, Tim Price, climbed up the leader board into third place with Xavier Faer – a horse that at the beginning of the week was off everyone’s radar as a potential top three placing.
“Tricia Ricards bred him and that’s one hell of a feat before we’ve even started,” Price said of the British bred 11 year old gelding, “I’ve had him for the last two and a half years and his spookiness has stopped any kind of performance, but I’ve always thought of him as a horse for something like Badminton.”
After a few unfortunate results at three and four star competitions of late it’s good to see Tim where he belongs and in the top three at a top class competition, “last year I felt there were quite a few incidences where it could have gone either way with a bit of luck, but a bit of a load has definitely been lifted and it’s nice and early in the year so hopefully I’ll be able to take that confidence on and enjoy what’s to come.”
Best of the Brits is a rider unused to the spotlight in CCI4* competitions, and having been in the shadows for some time, she has well and truly stepped out into the limelight. Rosalind Canter piloted her own and Caroline Moore’s Allstar B to an incredible double clear on their first completion of Badminton and must surely have boosted their chances of a senior team selection ahead of this year’s European Championships with the 12 year old Dutch Warmblood gelding.
So after the dust settles and the turf of Badminton House recovers, with an absolute historic result for a man who knows this competition better than any other event rider, I can only leave the final words to the owner of Nereo, Deborah Sellar who only had this to say “Well, that was a bit of alright Andrew, thank you very much!”
With special thanks to Amy Bennett and Mike Bain