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Burghley on Their Minds

Burghley on Their Minds

Olympic bronze medallist Andrew Nicholson has more reason than most to do well at the Burghley International Horse Trials this week.

The 51-year-old is poised to take out the HSBC FEI Classic Series, in which he is sitting second, just six points behind William Fox-Pitt (GBR). The series – the grand slam of eventing – has the biggest prize pool on offer in the sport of eventing, with $US150,000 to the winner, $US75,000 to second, with prize money paid out through to fifth place. A win at Burghley would give Nicholson 15 points, with 12 points for second and 10 for third. It finishes at Burghley this week.

Nicholson has twice won Burghley – in 1995 and 2000 – and plans to start Avebury (owned by Mark and Rosemary Barlow and Nicholson) and either Calico Joe (owned by 2012 in Mind Syndicate) or Mr Cruise Control (owned by Robin and Nicola Salmon and Nicholson). He will make that decision based on the ground conditions.

“Cruise needs a dry ground, but he is much more experienced than Calico,” said Nicholson. “It’s a big week alright...and this is one event we need to win.”

Nicholson, who is also leading the FEI world rankings, opted to head to New Zealand a day later than the rest of his team for their whirl-wind three-and-a-half day visit last week purely because he wanted to prepare more for Burghley, which has £55,000 for the winner.

“There is big big prize money at stake here,” he says. “Avebury has been going really well and has to have a good chance at winning.”

Avebury and Cruise Control were the only two of 140 horses to go clear and inside time at the 3* Hartpury Horse Trials recently.

He’s not the only Kiwi starting at Burghley this week. Also lining up are his team-mates Mark Todd on Major Milestone (owned by Diane Brunsden and Peter Cattell), who have finished 11th and 15th in their last starts together at Burghley.

“This is my favourite event,” says Todd, who is a five-time winner at Burghley. “It is a fun event with a really challenging cross country course.”

Caroline Powell, who won Burghley in 2010, is entered aboard Boston Two Tip (owned by Alan Bell and Powell), while Jonathan Paget will compete on Clifton Lush (owned by Frances Stead and Lucy Allison), who was fifth there last year.

“I’d love to win it if we can,” says Paget. “We will be trying our best! We’ve done the course walk and it looks similar to last year, but we’ll be chasing a better dressage test than before. We’re heading into this one in a good space.”

New Zealand’s Olympic reserve Lucy Jackson is also starting.

Equestrian Sports New Zealand high performance director Sarah Harris says all eyes will be on the Kiwi combinations to take out Burghley. She’s picking Nicholson and Paget as the two to watch, however says the event is a good chance for Jackson to stake a claim for teams of the future.

The cross country course includes three of the London Olympic fences – The Olympic Games Horses, The Planet and The Sundials have all been included in the Captain Mark Phillips-designed course.

The four star event is one of the most coveted to win and has attracted a star field, including three of Britain’s Olympic silver medal-winning team in Mary King, William Fox-Pitt and Kristina Cook. Fox-Pitt has won the event a record six times, including last year aboard the New Zealand-bred thoroughbred Parklane Hawk.

Australian Christopher Burton is on the start card, as is Germany’s Dirk Schrade.

Event director Elizabeth Inman says the exciting high-class level of entry has set the scene for one of the best Burghleys yet.

Burghley starts with the dressage on Thursday (UK time) and Friday, followed by the cross country on Saturday and showjumping on Sunday.

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