Andrew Nicholson chasing history at Burghley
Andrew Nicholson is chasing a slice of history but he's not the only Kiwi creating headlines as the world's leading three-day eventers prepare to tackle the final four-star of the season.
Nicholson and his brilliant 14-year-old grey gelding Avebury are eyeing a trifecta of wins at the Burghley International Horse Trials, attempting to become the first rider-horse combination to win the prestigious Lincolnshire event for three successive years.
Britain's Virginia Leng (nee Holgate) won four successive titles in the 1980s but on three different horses.
Having completed a comparatively straightforward victory in 2012, Nicholson was awarded the 2013 title months after the event after fellow Kiwi Jock Paget and his horse, Clifton Promise, were disqualified because Promise had a banned sedative in his system.
Paget was last month cleared of any fault and allowed to return to the sport.
He wasn't expected to make the startline at Burghley this week but, because Promise retired early on the cross-country after a run-out at last week's World Equestrian Games in France, he is fresh enough to compete at Burghley.
Paget confirmed the duo's entry this week as they return to the place that his year from hell began, and his fortunes will be closely followed when the event starts tonight (NZ time).
''When something like that happens early, there's really no point in putting 10 minutes of hard yakka on his legs, and I had entered Burghley just in case something stupid happened ... and it did,'' Paget said.
Nicholson, though, is the man to beat on a Burghley track that is like a second home to both himself and Avebury.
He has four wins on the course (1995, 2000, 2012 and 2013), the latter two with Avebury who has excelled on traditionally the toughest of the four-star cross-country tracks.
''Statistically Burghley has always been Andrew's favourite event and he just loves that cross-country course,'' Equestrian Sports New Zealand boss Jim Ellis said.
''As we all know he's a master at the cross-country so he'll be absolutely determined to put that one in the bag and get the hat-trick.''
Nicholson and Paget are joined by fellow world championships competitors Tim and Jonelle Price, on Ringwood Sky Boy and The Deputy, respectively, as well as Kiwis Megan Heath (St Daniel), Neil Spratt (Upleadon) and Craig Nicolai (Just Ironic).
Five-time Burghley champion Mark Todd will not line up this week.
Tim Price, courtesy of his win at the four-star Luhmuhlen event in Germany and a top-10 at Badminton, is third in the FEI Classic series and would claim a US$25,000 bonus if he was able to maintain that position at the end of the weekend.
Burghley will have to share the stage with the showjumping at the WEG in France.
Showjumping is the Formula One of equestrian with all the money and private jets and it has been scheduled to run concurrently to Burghley.
MOST BURGHLEY WINS
William Fox-Pitt (Britain) 6
Virginia Leng (nee Holgate, Britain) 5
Mark Todd (NZ) 5
Andrew Nicholson (NZ) 4
SUCCESSIVE VICTORIES AT BURGHLEY
Leng 4 (1983-86)
Todd 2 (1990-91)
Fox-Pitt 2 (2007-08)
Nicholson 2 (2012-13)
FEI CLASSICS STANDINGS (after five of six four-star events for the 2013-14 season)
1. William Fox-Pitt (Britain) 30pts
2. Oliver Townend (Britain) 20
3. Tim Price (NZ) 17
4. Sam Griffiths (Aust), Christopher Burton (Aust), Phillip Dutton (USA) 15
(15pts for a win, 12 for second, 10 for third, 8 for fourth, 6 for fifth)