Equestrian: Paget now focused on grand slam

By David Leggat

Jock Paget won't need to be laying any bricks for a while.

That's how Paget was earning a crust in Sydney a few years ago before getting a chance to try his hand at eventing.

He hasn't looked back and yesterday's win at the four-star Burghley horse trials puts him on track for what would be an outstanding achievement.

Paget and Clifton Promise, on whom he won the Badminton trial in May, can pocket £225,000 ($440,000) if he wins the Kentucky four-star event next April. Only British Olympic rider Pippa Funnell has previously completed the grand slam of the three most important classics, in 2003.

Paget had kept the thought tucked away through the Burghley week.

"Up until now I've always made sure it's something in the back of my mind," Paget, 29, said.

"I didn't want to be focusing on that while I was at Burghley. I wanted to tick this box first.

Now it's the obvious target."

Paget's win highlighted a remarkable weekend for New Zealand eventing.

World No1 Andrew Nicholson took second and third on Avebury - on whom he won Burghley last year - and Nereo; Jonelle Richards was sixth on The Deputy, Mark Todd seventh on Oloa, and Nicholson took eighth on his third mount, Calico Joe.

"I brought three horses and I still can't beat him," Nicholson quipped of his former protege.

Nicholson, who has had a big influence on Paget's development, won the six-event Classics crown, and US$150,000 ($188,000); Paget finished third, worth US$50,000.

The 15-year-old Clifton Promise is clearly a special horse, and Paget was chuffed to have won a second classic on him. No rider in the top 23 managed a clear round.

When Paget entered the arena last of the 42 combinations to complete the competition out of 68 starters, he could afford two rails down and still win. He didn't need a cushion that size.

"He's an exceptional horse who loves his job. It's taken me a while to work out how to have him prepared correctly for all three days. I think we're getting on to that now," he said, with a touch of understatement.

Paget hopes he's got at least a couple more years in Promise but knows the gruelling nature of the sport tends to take care of that.

He is the fifth New Zealand rider to win Burghley, after Todd (five times), Nicholson (three), Blyth Tait (two) and Caroline Powell (once). New Zealanders have won 12 of the last 27 Burghley crowns.

Between them, Nicholson and Paget have won all five of the Classics New Zealand's leading combinations entered, excluding Adelaide last November. The collective performance by New Zealand's entries bodes well for next year's World Equestrian Games in France.

The depth of talent means - fit horses permitting - the prospects of a formidable combination are strong. As for forgoing his bricklaying career, Paget said it had been "good to put the tools down and do something I love doing".

Paget's Grand Slam
- Jock Paget has won two legs of three-day eventing's grand slam, Badminton in May and Burghley yesterday.

- To complete the slam he needs to win the Kentucky event next April.

- He has won the first two legs on Clifton Promise, but can win on any horse to pocket the £225,000 ($440,000) prize.

- NZ Herald

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