New Zealand riders glory in Burghley triumph
Jock Paget and Andrew Nicholson each claimed a slice of history as they extended a golden period for New Zealand three-day eventing at the Burghley International Horse Trials in Lincolnshire today.
Paget led throughout on his champion horse Clifton Promise, becoming the first combination since Brit Ginny Leng and Master Craftsman in 1989 to win the Badminton-Burghley double in the same calendar year.
Though the 29-year-old former bricklayer and rugby league player, who had never jumped a fence till he was 18, usurped one of his heroes for the second time this year to claim the $120,000 first prize for Promise's owner Frances Stead, Nicholson had plenty to crow about himself.
The 52-year-old finished second on Avebury, his winning horse last year at Burghley, and third on Nereo, completing a Kiwi trifecta. He was also eighth on Calico Joe, becoming the first rider to complete the four-star Burghley event on three different horses.
He won a total of $156,000 for the owners of his trio, while officially sealing the deal in the FEI Classics series - a points-based competition across the six four-star events in the world during the 2012-2013 season.
Nicholson, the world No 1, claims an extra $US150,000 ($187,450) for that while Paget, who is sure to rise from his world ranking of No 5, collects a $US50,000 ($62,480) for finishing third in the series, narrowly missing second place to Britain's world No 2 William Fox-Pitt.
But today was all about Paget, who now has the grand slam in his sights. He will head to Kentucky in the United States next April trying to do what Nicholson so narrowly missed this year, winning Burghley, Kentucky and Badminton in succession (in any order) and pocketing $450,000.
"It will take a little time to sink in I think," he said. "It has been a great day for Promise. It is a shame we had a rail down but he did what he needed to do."
The 16-year-old former racehorse will always hold a special place in Paget's heart.
"He has always meant everything to me. I have been riding him for almost six years now and he is the first horse I won something big on.
"I came here to win and it was nice to do that. It doesn't make me feel good to beat Andrew because he has done so much for me but I came here to beat everybody, so whoever is in the field has to be beaten."
Nicholson was full of praise for Paget.
"It is a great achievement," he said. "Promise is a fabulous horse, and one that Jock has produced himself. He has had a lot of faith in him and is being rewarded for that."
Paget opted not to present Clifton Lush for the last horse inspection saying his leg, bumped on yesterday's cross-country, was a little sore so they wanted to save him for another day. Lush was second going into the showjumping.
Just 42 from the original 68-strong field made it through to the final phase and there was just one clear round inside the top 20.
Paget had a single rail in hand going into the showjumping, which extended to two by the time he came into the ring. He dropped the last fence, but it was irrelevant and he finished more than five penalty points clear of three-time Burghley champion Nicholson.
Paget (two) and Nicholson (four) have now won six of the past seven four-star events between them going back to Burghley last year and the Kiwis' domination of the elite events was mirrored today, with six combinations inside the top 10.
London Olympian Jonelle Richards and The Deputy were sixth while Sir Mark Todd aboard his new ride Oloa was seventh.
Results: Jock Paget (NZL) Clifton Promise 41.1 points 1, Andrew Nicholson (NZL) Avebury 46.3 2, Andrew Nicholson (NZL) Nereo 47.3 3, William Fox-Pitt (GBR) Parklane Hawk 50.3 4, Ingrid Klimke (GER) FRH Butts Abraxxas 52.2 5, Jonelle Richards (NZL) The Deputy 59.4 6, Sir Mark Todd (NZL) Oloa 59.5 7, Andrew Nicholson (NZL) Calico Joe 60.3 8, Ludwig Svennerstal (SWE) King Bob 60.7 9, Kristina Cook (GBR) De Novo News 62.4 10.
Also: Neil Spratt (NZL) Upleadon 69.6 16, Jonelle Richards (NZL) Flintstar 76.2 22, Jonathan Paget (NZL) Clifton Lush withdrawn before showjumping, Lucy Jackson (NZL) Willy Do eliminated cross-country, Sir Mark Todd (NZL) Ravenstar withdrawn before cross-country.
FEI Classics final standings: Andrew Nicholson (NZL) 67 points 1, William Fox-Pitt (GBR) 44 2, Jock Paget (NZL) 42 3.
- © Fairfax NZ News