Paget, Nicholson still in Badminton contention
Clear cross-country rounds from Jock Paget and Andrew Nicholson have kept the New Zealanders in contention at the Badminton Horse Trials but they will require something extraordinary if they're to triumph tomorrow - German Michael Jung and his crack three-day eventing horse Sam to slip up.
Paget and his top horse Clifton Promise are second and Nicholson and his top mount Nereo fourth heading into the final showjumping phase tomorrow, but world, Olympic and European champion Jung is the man they are chasing and the 30-year-old is not known for letting a winning position go.
Jung also went clear in today's cross-country, leaving him on his dressage score of 36 penalties. Paget is on 39.7 with Nicholson on 40.2. Nicholson's rival for the 'grand slam', Britain's William Fox-Pitt, is third on his New Zealand-bred horse Parklane Hawk, with 40 points, having also gone clear in the cross-country.
If Jung and Sam go clear in the showjumping the title is his and Nicholson and Fox-Pitt, both gunning for the 'grand slam', can kiss goodbye to the $410,000 bonus.
If the German knocks down one rail, which is worth four penalty points, it brings Paget and Fox-Pitt into play. But with Nicholson 4.2 points behind, he requires Jung to drop two rails, Paget and Fox-Pitt one each, while going clear himself, although that is not factoring in potential time penalties.
The biggest hurdle is going to be Jung, who has been on Sam for each of his world, Olympic and European titles. A slip up from the world No 3 seems highly unlikely but is certainly not out of the question in the pressure-cooker atmosphere of the showjumping arena at the biggest four-star event in the world.
Nicholson needs to win Badminton in his quest to take out the $US350,000 Grand Slam after winning last year’s Burghley and last week’s Kentucky events. Fox-Pitt is also still in the hunt due to last year’s Badminton cancellation, seeing his 2011 Burghley and 2012 Kentucky wins being carried over. The grand slam bonus goes to any rider who can win the three big four-star events in succession.
Meanwhile, Nicholson also went clear on his second horse, Avebury, to move up to eighth after the cross-country, while Paget and Clifton Lush are 14th after a clear round.
Caroline Powell had clear rounds on Onwards and Upwards and Boston Two Tip to climb to 30th and 36th, respectively, while Lucy Jackson, Megan Heath and Sir Mark Todd on his two horses are all in the second half of the field.
Of these accolades, which would you like to win most?