Paget slips back to sixth at Kentucky four-star

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 08:24 30/04/2012

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Clifton Promise's showjumping form dipped at exactly the wrong time as New Zealand's Jock Paget dropped three places to finish sixth at the Rolex Kentucky four-star event in Lexington, Kentucky.

Paget was third and within one rail of the lead heading into the final showjumping phase at the Kentucky Horse Park this morning (NZT), but he knocked two rails down himself to incur eight penalties and end hopes of a first four-star win.

Promise is known for his showjumping ability, having taken only three rails in his four-star career before today, and Paget had figured he was due to go clear again. But it wasn't to be as he finished with 52.8 penalties for sixth, one spot ahead of compatriot Andrew Nicholson on Qwanza (55.8).

As it transpired, a clear round would have been enough for victory, too, as second-placed Allison Springer on Arthur and the leader, William Fox-Pitt on Parklane Hawk, both dropped a rail each.

But it was still good enough for Fox-Pitt (45.3) to claim the win, setting the crack Brit up for a shot at the Grand Slam of Eventing at Badminton in England later this week. Any rider who claims Burghley, Kentucky and Badminton in succession will be rewarded with $350,000 for completing the Grand Slam. The world No 2 won Burghley last year and is now the Kentucky champion.

Both victories were completed on Parklane Hawk, a former Kiwi race horse who was previously ridden by New Zealand Olympian Matthew Grayling before being sold offshore.

Although it was a disappointing finish for Paget, the Kiwi No 3 and world No 14 will be encouraged by Promise's dressage and cross-country showing as he builds toward the Olympics.

Paget is a near certainty to be on the New Zealand team, it's just a question of whether he takes Promise or Clifton Lush to London. Lush gets a chance to impress at Badminton this week.

New Zealand No 1 Nicholson had a top weekend with Qwanza, backing up yesterday's double clear cross-country with a flawless showjumping round to claim seventh, having been 24th after the dressage.

He was forced to retire Calico Joe, who was 10th after the dressage, at the tricky combination ninth fence on the cross-country phase.

Both Qwanza and Calico Joe were competing in their first four-star event this week, with the world No 3 saving his best rides for more significant dates - Nereo is tagged for the Olympics and Avebury and Mr Cruise Control are heading to Badminton later this week.

Nicholson's inclination that the talented Qwanza would not quite be good enough in the dressage test to win this week proved correct, but otherwise it was a top four-star debut for one of his few mares.

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The other Kiwi combination, Lucy Jackson and Kilcoltrim Ambassador, were eliminated during the cross-country. Just 27 of 57 starters completed the only four-star event held in the United States, and the third of six legs in the FEI Classics.

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