Equestrian: Nicholson on a mission to get grand slam

By Diana Dobson


Andrew Nicholson has set up a battle royale at the 2013 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials as he tries to become just the second person ever to win the Rolex Grand Slam.

On the back of his victory at the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event, where he won his third consecutive four star start, Nicholson lines up as one of the hot favourites.

But with a stellar field attracted to the prestigious English event, it won't be a walk in the park, and his arch rival William Fox-Pitt (GBR) is also eyeing both prestigious titles.

Nicholson spearheads a solid New Zealand contingent - more combinations accepted than any other nation other than hosts Great Britain - which also includes his London Olympic bronze medal winning teammates Sir Mark Todd, Jonathan Paget and Caroline Powell - all of whom have two mounts apiece. London reserve Lucy Jackson has two entered, while Megan Heath and her horse St Daniel are the only combination on the Kiwi card that are not yet members of the high performance squad - they'll be keen on a good finish to earn that stripe.

Nicholson has Avebury (owned by Mark and Rosemary Barlow and Nicholson) and Nereo (owned by Deborah Sellar) on the card - two of his most experienced horses. He's made no secret of his focus on the HSBC FEI Classics Series, which he is leading, and is in a plum position to take the cash rich Rolex Grand Slam - the rider who wins Badminton, Burghley and Kentucky consecutively pockets US$350,000 ($408,000) .

"It's going to be a very interesting weekend," says the number one world ranked eventer.

He's never won Badminton, and yet holds the record for the most completions - and he's on a mission.

While Todd is the defending champ at Badminton, having won it in 2011 aboard NZB Land Vision - 2012 was cancelled due to weather - he is not trumpeting himself as the one to beat.

"There are a lot of very established horses there this year ... it is a very strong field and could be anyone's," he says.

His horse Ravenstar (owned by Team Rutledge) will be having his first four star start and Todd is confident if everything goes well, they should be in the top 10. His other horse Major Milestone (owned by Diane Brunsden and Peter Cattell) is more than likely going to be "playing a bit of catch up" after the dressage.

"It is always good to be at Badminton and I would love to be there this year with Campino, but he's out with injury and won't be doing anything until next spring."

However, Equestrian Sports New Zealand high performance director Sarah Harris is picking a winner.

"Andrew [Nicholson] is our pick to win, but never underestimate Jonathan [Paget]," she says.

Paget will ride both Clifton Promise (owned by Frances Stead), who he finished seventh on at the 2010 World Equestrian Championships, and Clifton Lush (owned by Lucy Allison and Frances Stead).

"Lush is a lovely horse who hasn't really had the opportunity to reach his potential yet ... it could be his turn, and Jonathan is a serious talent."

Harris says a Badminton win is all part of the wider high performance plan for the Kiwis to dominate the world's four star events, the highest level in eventing.

Caroline Powell is another one who can't be discounted, particularly on Onwards and Upwards (owned by Cameron and Mary Crawford).

"He's a bit green, with just one four star under his belt, but he is a super horse for the future and Caroline will be keen to cement her place in the starting line-up at the World Championships (in 2014)."

Harris is looking forward to seeing some of the younger combinations step up.

Powell's little superstar Lenamore, who retired earlier this year, will be honoured at a parade in the main arena on the final day of competition. The combination hold their record seven consecutive completions, which saw them just once outside the prize money.

The cross country course at Badminton has been designed by Hugh Thomas. The start list includes reigning Olympic, world and European champion Michael Jung (GER).

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n6 at 20 Sep 2014 17:57:01 Processing Time: 471ms