Andrew Nicholson and Avebury made history at the St James’ Place Wealth Management Barbury International Horse Trials on Sunday, completing a remarkable success story for New Zealand riders.
Nicholson guided the gifted 15-year-old grey gelding to a fourth successive Barbury title — a feat that has never been achieved by any combination at any competition in the history of eventing — after an immaculate cross-country performance in pouring rain.
Avebury, also a triple Burghley champion, finished on a dressage score of 33.9 penalties to retain a trophy that has been in the hands of his owners, Rosemary and Mark Barlow, since 2012. Nicholson, meanwhile, was also second aboard the Olympic- and World Games-medallist Nereo, while New Zealand’s double Olympic individual champion, Mark Todd, took third on Leonidas II.
The New Zealand one-two-three came 24 hours after three Kiwi riders — Nicholson (Loughnatousa Joey), Tim Price (The Court Jester) and Jesse Campbell (Cleveland) — won all three CIC2* sections at Barbury Horse Trials in a staggering display of strength barely a year out from the Rio Olympic Games.
North Yorkshire-based Nicola Wilson, who looks set to be named in the Great Britain team for September’s European Championships at Blair Castle in Scotland, was the leading British finisher in fourth spot on Beltane Queen, with Price and Ringwood Sky Boy fifth, just ahead of Britain’s Laura Collett and Grand Manoeuvre.
China’s Alex Hua Tian had held second place overnight, but 18 time faults on three-star debutant Don Geniro saw him to drop to 16th on a day when just eight combinations jumped clear inside the time. So wet were the conditions that Nicholson went around the course on Avebury without wearing his trademark glasses.
Nicholson’s first and second-placed finishers apart, the other clears inside the time came from Todd, Wilson, Price and his wife Jonelle (Classic Moet), Australian Paul Tapner (Indian Mill) and Britain’s Becky Woolven (Charlton Down Riverdance).
Avebury had already been crowned the undisputed king of Barbury, and had a fence named in his honour this year, as well as the hospitality marquee. Named after the nearby ancient earthworks, he is something of a character and is known to be fond of competing at Barbury, his most local event.
“He definitely knows where he is when he comes here,” said Marlborough-based Nicholson, who often works his horses on gallops situated close to Barbury. He is now set to aim Avebury at a fourth successive Burghley crown in September.
Image: Adam Dale