Badminton: Will it be 34th time lucky for Andrew Nicholson?

By Charles Taylor on |

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Thirteenth time lucky is a long enough wait – but 34th time lucky?

It is remarkable to think that New Zealand superstar Andrew Nicholson has never won the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.

The five-time Burghley champion can also count Kentucky and Pau four-star titles among his collection, but while he has completed the demanding Badminton test of dressage, cross-country and showjumping a record 33 times, he has yet to lift the trophy.

The former world number one, though, means business this time around, judging by a superb dressage score of 37.8 aboard Nereo. And it was also a relaxed Nicholson who spoke after a test that has put him in prime position over the weekend to end his long Badminton wait.

I haven’t walked the course yet. It was far too windy yesterday, and it might have ruffled my hair up.

Asked if he walked the cross-country course yet, the Wiltshire-based Kiwi replied: “No, not yet. It was far too windy yesterday, and it might have ruffled my hair up.”

But there was also a steely gaze in Nicholson’s eyes, when asked if he felt this year might be his best chance of Badminton glory, adding: “Yes. I am very focused on it.”

Nicholson is regarded as arguably the world’s finest cross-country rider, and he is relishing the challenge that Italian course designer Guiseppe della Chiesa has posed.

“I was very pleased with the course last year,” he said. “I hope he (della Chiesa) hasn’t shied off from last year. I think the weather caught us all out last year.

“Hopefully, it is his style. For sure, there will be enough to jump out there.”

New Zealander Jock Paget marked his return to the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials with a stylish dressage performance with his 2013 champion Clifton Promise.

Paget was unable to defend the title last year due to a lengthy suspension imposed after Promise tested positive for the banned substance reserpine. Paget, though, consistently protested innocence, and he was cleared in August last year, clearing the way for him to resume his competitive career.

“I was very happy with him,” Paget said after the dressage.

“He’s such a professional now, he knows his job. He went in there and did his job for me. I thought it was a really good test.

“I think it was one of the better tests he has done. Every foot was where I wanted it.

“You do all the work, you train, train, train, and it is nice when you go in there and they do it for you.

“I can’t complain at all preparation-wise. I’ve got here with two good horses.”

And looking ahead to Saturday’s cross-country phase, Paget added: “I’ve walked the course once, and I really liked it. I think it is big, as it should be. The questions are fair. If you ride it right, the horses will understand the questions.  “This is four-star, and you have to get it all right, otherwise you get punished.”

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