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Nicholson Scorches to the Front at Burghley

Nicholson Scorches to the Front at Burghley

Andrew Nicholson has shot to the lead of the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials after a super slick cross country round aboard Avebury, putting him well on track to notch an historic hat-trick of titles.

The Mark and Rosemary Barlow owned grey answered every challenge Nicholson put to him, leaving them 3.7 penalty points ahead of the second-placed Sam Griffiths (AUS) on Happy Times. Jock Paget and Clifton Promise (owned by Frances Stead and Russell Hall) lie in fourth place, with Jonelle Price and The Deputy (owned by Lucy Sangster, and Price) in 11th spot heading into tomorrow's all-important showjumping phase.

Nicholson was one happy man at the end of the Captain Mark Phillips designed course.

It would be unbelievable for us to win three consecutive Burghley titles, not just for myself, but also for the horse and the sport.

“Avebury does this happily, and is no slouch. He always feels the best when I am riding him like I stole him.”

He had deliberately done the first three minutes of the course a little quieter than usual, to allow Avebury to get into the rhythm.

Nicholson said he always aimed for the most economical lines, challenging himself to go inside any other tracks, and he thinks Avebury likes to play the same game.

“That is how I ride, and he does it too. I'd like to think he is being clever but I think he is saving his energy.”

Avebury had been a very consistent winner from the the word go, and had done Burghley five times, finishing inside the optimum time most of those.

Nicholson praised Phillips's course, saying it had been very clever.

“It is good course designing. The conditions here are perfect, as always . . . after the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, it is a pleasure to run around here.”

Jock Paget said he had to change his plan at the water, which cost him valuable seconds, but he was very proud of Promise, who had kept fighting all the way home.

“My horse is very honest and I felt we went fast, but as we're 40 seconds over time, it's not great. I think we might have given it away – that time was crucial,” said Paget.

“We were careful at the beginning. I was watching some of the others who set out too fast and I didn't want to be chasing a tired horse home.”

Instead, Promise had been “like a rocket” on the way home.

Jonelle Price said the course had been big all the way round, with that unique “Burghley factor” that is found no-where else.

She and The Deputy had been fifth at Burghley last year, and had contemplated not starting him today after sitting in 28th spot after the dressage.

“It is not worth putting miles on him that he doesn't need. We didn't come here to get 22nd,” said Price.

It wasn't such good news for other Kiwi combinations – Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy (owned by and Price) were eliminated after they parted company, as did Neil Spratt and Upleadon (owned by Sharon Robbins, Annitta Engel and Spratt), and Craig Nicolai aboard his own Just Ironic. Megan Heath and St Daniel was also eliminated.

Course designer Captain Mark Phillips said he had been very surprised no-one had finished inside the time allowed.

Of the 64 in the field, 40 finished, 13 were eliminated, 10 retired and one withdrew.

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