Andrew Nicholson is a showjumping clear round away from winning his first Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials at the age of 53.
The genial New Zealander coaxed a cross-country clear round inside the time out of Nereo to remain on their dressage score of 37.8 penalties and preserve an overnight lead.
Although it is unlikely that he will have a fence in hand heading into Sunday’s finale, Nicholson knows exactly what he has to do in order to claim a ninth career four-star crown after landing five Burghley titles, plus winsat Kentucky, Luhmuhlen and Pau.
Nicholson holds the record for most Badminton completions with 33, but his current best Badminton performance was second in 2004.
Nicholson and Nereo were among the early starters on a blustery, but sunny day, and they duly delivered the goods around a course causing nowhere near as problem as last year when the heavens opened and winds blew all day.
“He was superb,” said Nicholson, of Nereo’s display.
“I made a conscious effort to make sure that I jumped every single fence. He is a very sensitive horse, and last year when I fell off we were far too casual – it was all too easy.
“We had a little trip up the bank coming out of the water, and that helped me a lot. It got me really switched on, and the horse, to make sure we jumped everything.
“Normally, he is a good showjumper. I can’t see why he should lose that ability overnight.
“It is quite a different course to ride here when it is the opposite way round. The end of the course is softer than last year.
“Once the weather did what it did last year, it made the course a lot harder. Up until I fell off him last year, Nereo was making the course look very easy.”
Two other combinations – Jonelle Price (Classic Moet) and Joseph Murphy (Sportfield Othello) – also went clear inside the time as the action unfolded, while Mark Todd (Leonidas II) and defending champion Sam Griffiths (Paulank Brockagh) collected just 1.2 and 1,6 time penalties, respectively.
Francis Whittington and Andrew Heffernan both retired, though, while Andrew Hoy parted company with Lanfranco.