Equestrian: NZ trio face equestrian elite in Kentucky

Jonathan Paget is on the verge of joining the eventing team for the London Olympics. Pihoto / Sarah Ivey
Jonathan Paget is on the verge of joining the eventing team for the London Olympics. Pihoto / Sarah Ivey

New Zealand's would-be London Olympians go head to head with some of the best combinations in the world at the Rolex Kentucky three-day equestrian event in the United States this weekend.

Andrew Nicholson has two of his younger horses in Qwanza and Calico Joe at the four-star event, while Jonathan Paget has his world champs star Clifton Promise and Lucy Jackson the 10-year-old Kilcoltram Ambassador.

It's a star-studded field though with a record 73 horses entered including former Kentucky champions, Olympic medal winners and some of the sport's biggest names from the United States, Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

The Americans are using the Lexington event as selection trials for the London Olympics and the Kiwi selectors will be looking very closely at the trio lining up for New Zealand.

Equestrian Sports New Zealand high performance director Sarah Harris is expecting big things from all of them.

"Jonathan [Paget] has been there before on [Clifton] Promise, so knows the tracks and is in a good position to win," she said.

"It's a great opportunity for Lucy [Jackson] to experience an international course outside of the UK and Europe, and Andrew [Nicholson] may be starting two young horses in their first four-star event, but never underestimate this world class rider."

The three are part of a seven-strong crew vying for the five London Olympic spots.

Paget has ridden in Kentucky twice before, both in 2010 - at the Rolex and the world equestrian games where he finished seventh.

"I love this event," he said. "I'll be trying my best, that's for sure. I am lucky enough to have such a special horse who is capable of winning if everything goes our way, but this is a four-star event and the best in the world are here."

- APNZ

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