Sarah Carless reports …
Andrew Nicholson cemented his status as the King of Barbury by winning a fifth successive title.
The New Zealand rider took victory in the Event Rider Master series at Barbury International, sponsored by St James’s Place Wealth Management with Nereo, owned by Libby Sellars.
Brazillian Marcio Jorge and Lissy Mac Wayer had the perfect Olympic preparation when they seized a convincing early lead in the Event Rider Masters. The pair, who are trained by former British dressage team rider Anna Ross-Davies, produced a sparkling test and pulled off a career best mark of 32.5 penalties to head Swedish combination Hedwig Wek and Chippieh, who are in second place on 35.9. He was almost too excited to speak after his dressage saying: “She’s a sensitive horse who takes a lot of tactful riding but she’s always had the quality. To be part of the home team at a home Olympics is going to be amazing. I can’t believe it.”
Swedish rider Hedwig Wik was second after dressage with Chippieh, whilst Nicholson was third on the 16-year-old Nereo after dressage with a score of 37.6.
Course-designer Stephen Renoir’s show jumping track shook up the leaderboard with dressage leader Jorge having two fences down, pushing him down to second. Hedwig Wik, second after dressage dropped out of the top 20 with four fences down, while Mark Todd, fifth after dressage, suffered a dramatic round when some paper blew across the arena in front of the horse at the treble. He was allowed to re-jump the fence, hitting it again, but further jumping and time penalties put Todd well out of contention. Nicholson then set himself up for his fifth win after producing a clear in the show jumping but incurring two time faults to lead going into the final phase.
As the competition drew to a thrilling climax, the lead constantly changed hands. But Nicholson kept his cool to storm round the cross country inside the time to take victory. Afterwards he paid tribute to his wife Wiggy saying: “This is why I do it, for the people who support me and my family. It all felt far too easy. I felt I was meeting every fence very easily. Nereo is a long-striding horse but he now adapts to whatever he’s got to do. In fact, he feels like Avebury.”
Australia’s Paul Tapner finished in second place on Yogi Bear with the in-form Gemma Tattersall finishing in third with Santiago Bay. Gemma who will form part of the Great Britain team in Rio now heads the ERM leaderboard.
Young British rider Dani Evans finished fourth, ahead of dressage leader Marcio Jorge from Brazil, fifth, and William Fox-Pitt in sixth place on Cool Mountain.
Australia’s Christopher Burton found a new star to add to his string of horses, winning the St James’s Place CIC3* on Polystar l.
Burton was left with a comfortable lead when Pippa Funnell and Gemma Tattersall, first and second after the showjumping phase, withdrew their potential Rio horses, but he made the cross-country look easy and finished with a winning margin of 6.3 penalties.
British riders Nicola Wilson, on the mare Bulana, and Sarah Cohen on Treason gave chase in a thrilling finale and finished second and third, just one-tenth of a penalty apart. Another Australian, Paul Tapner, was fourth and fifth on Kilronan and Vanir Kamira.
Burton only got the ride on the 11-year-old Polystar l this season, after the horse’s Swedish owner, Michaela Sandberg, sent him over to be sold. He said: “I only came here to show him his first three-star competition, not to win. But I was impressed with his stride and scope – he’s got quite a bit of thoroughbred blood – and he’s got a good attitude. The course was twisty but I had a great ride. It’s good to see some changes.”
Nicola Wilson was also on a mission – to get the feisty black mare Bulana, a winner at Boekelo last year, to listen to her and to come back to the hand. “I’m hugely relieved,” she said. “Usually when her feet touch the ground after a fence she’s off, but today I thought: ‘My god, we’re actually in a rhythm.’ It was such a joyous feeling – she gave me a beautiful ride.”
Third place was a great thrill for Sarah Cohen, as Treason is now her only ride; after a stellar career at the highest level, she devotes most of her time now to looking after her two children. “Beanie Sturgis gave me a right talking to and told me to get a move on. I’ve ridden this horse for ten years and have always believed in him. He’s still got it – I just wanted to make sure I’ve still got it.”
Forty-five of the 60 cross-country starters completed with 37 clear rounds, only four of which were within the optimum time, including sixth-placed Michael Owen on Bradeley Law.
Tom McEwen, one of Britain’s most exciting young rider prospects, scored a cracking victory in one of three CCI2* sections on the appropriately named Joyride, an eight-year-old by Jumbo owned by the Stately Syndicate.
“He was really good,” said Tom afterwards. “The time is always tight here, so it’s a real thrill, and I thought the track flowed well this way round. The horse has definitely matured in the last year and I’m hoping to take him to Blenheim.”
Flora Harris enjoyed a good afternoon at her most local event, with a win in Section D on Caroline
Harris’s Monart’s Masterpiece, an eight-year-old by Master Imp. “To come to Barbury and win is fantastic,” said Flora. “This is the fastest I’ve been on him. He’s sensitive and tricky but so talented,” she said of the gelding she started riding at the end of last season, taking over from Polly Jackson. “The course rode really well – the ground was quick, but not hard.”
William Fox-Pitt scored another international win with Catherine Witt’s Secret Night (Section C) leading the field from start to finish. Secret Night, an 11-year-old Oldenburger by Sunny Boy, was bought in Germany, where he was previously ridden by Adam Liedermann, a Polish teacher, who eventually hadn’t the time to do the horse justice. “Because he hasn’t done that much, he’s more like an eight-year-old,” explained William. “He’s very resilient, a bit of a schoolmaster, and has put up with me being a bit erratic this year. When I first saw him, I didn’t think ‘wow’, but I also felt I couldn’t leave him behind. He’s a nice looking horse that moves and jumps well and he’s really improved.”
Retraining of Racehorses
Harry Meade took the £2,000 first prize in the Retraining of Racehorses class with a versatile new ride,
The bay gelding was originally trained over hurdles by Henrietta Knight but has since had a varied career with his owner Amy Martin, including Pony Club, hunting, advanced eventing – and galloping along the Norfolk coast.
“Having come from Henrietta, he’s probably had as good a start as any eventer, and he’s been a real family horse with Amy,” said Harry. “He might have been a lazy racehorse, but he’s a sweet, charming character and I’d like to see how far he can go in eventing.”
Zoe Wilkinson finished second on Craignure and racehorse trainers’ daughters Kristina Cook (Watergate) and Harriet Dickin (Tilt du Chatelier) came third and fourth.
The event also hosted a number of national classes winners, including the final run for Pony riders hoping to be selected to represent Great Britain at the European Pony Championships in Denmark in August. The winner was Saffron Cresswell and Cuffesgrange Little Ric, winners of the British Pony Championships at Brand Hall in June. Their win was a convincing one. Scoring a dressage of 26.4, they went on to produced two faultless jumping rounds to win with a margin of 7.7 penalties.
Eventing Worldwide’s sponsored rider Charlotte Rowe put in a stunning performance to win Intermediate Novice Section N on Eventing Worldwide’s The Night Traveller. The combination scored 25.9 in the dressage to put themselves in pole position, and did not relinquish the lead with a clear show jumping and cross country.
Charlotte was also third in Novice Section I with LVS Stonehavens Quebec, also owned by Eventing Worldwide, and 15th in Intermediate Novice Section N on The Emerald Lily owned by her mother Penny Rowe.
Charlotte said: “It was brilliant mainly for Jess because it’s her favourite event and her birthday. Hugo went super from start to finish. We have really started to form a partnership and he is becoming a bit of a cross country machine. He will now go to Dauntsey and onto Bicton for the one star. Darcy went stunning producing her best test to date. Unfortunately, she had a silly pole down in the show jumping but jumped around the cross country like it was a BE80. Again the mare is going from strength to strength. She’ll also go to Dauntsey and Bicton with the big aim being the Osberton Six Year Old Championships. It was also brilliant to have Lily (who has qualified for the British Eventing Novice Championship in August) back out jumping a text book double clear.”
Other results: Novice Section F Christopher Burton, Fire Fly; Novice Section G Arthur Pottier, Billy Champagne; Novice Section H Tim Price, Falco IV; Novice Section I Caroline Harris, Faere Spirit; Open Novice Section J Michael Jackson, PSH Promise Me; Novice Section K Jessica Acheson, Furthest Point.
Images courtesy of Lorraine Porter