Racing: Andrew Nicholson one to watch

By Diana Dobson

The superstars of New Zealand eventing head to the Luhmuhlen Three Day Event in Germany this weekend.

The top-ranking event is the penultimate round of the HSBC Classics series, the six grand slams of eventing.

Likely London Olympian Andrew Nicholson has three horses - Shady Grey (owned by 2012 in Mind Syndicate), Calico Joe (owned by 2012 in Mind Syndicate) and Mr Cruise Control (owned by Robin and Nicola Salmon) entered in the event.

Nicholson is chasing both a podium finish and valuable points in the classics series where he sits second behind long-time rival William Fox-Pitt. With US$150,000 ($193,000) for the series winner there is plenty at stake. The final leg of the series is at Burghley in August.

Nicholson is no stranger to Luhmulen and says it's a tough event to shine at. "It's a proper four star. The standard of dressage is always very high. They have a very good arena which the horses work well on. It's the same for the showjumping, too, but with a good surface comes big courses."

He's done well there in the past, and is expecting good things from Mr Cruise Control who did his first four star (the highest level in world eventing) event there in 2010 and finished fourth. "I'm really looking forward to it."

Mark Todd will start on Major Milestone (owned by Diane Brundsen and Peter Catell) as well as Megan Heath and her own St Daniel.

Equestrian Sports high performance coach Erik Duvander is putting his money on Nicholson to do well. "He's there with three good horses and he's on a mission to win some prize money in the classics series. Calico Joe is in good shape and will arrive there as a better horse than he was in Kentucky. Mr Cruise Control is possibly on paper one of Andrew's most successful horses ever and is looking good.

He's been there a few times before, so knows the track and the event suits him well."

Duvander describes Luhmuhlen as "an old classic venue" that has hosted world and European championships. "There are not the big numbers there of previous years because it is so close to the Olympics, but it is never an easy one to win."

The four star horses will compete in the dressage phase on Friday (German time), followed by the cross country on Saturday and showjumping on Sunday.

HSBC FEI Classics standings: William Fox-Pitt (GBr) 30 points, Andrew Nicholson (NZ) 16, Stuart Tinney (Aus) 15, Alison Springer (USA) 12, Sonja Johnson (Aus) 12, Boyd Martin (USA) 10, Emma Mason (Aus) 10, Mary King (GBr) 8, Karen O'Connor (USA) 8, Natalie Blundell (Aus) 8.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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