The Marlborough based rider put himself well ahead after the dressage with a very strong 34.4, and fellow Wiltshire rider Laura Collett was the only other competitor to produce an under 40 test in this section. His showjumping was faultless, but Collett continued to put the pressure on with Rayef who, despite having a good spook and a nap and a spook part way round, jumped a classy clear and looked well within his capabilities.
In the final cross country phase, Nicholson added just 0.8 time faults (only two completed inside the time) for a stunning clear that would seal victory. Nicholson commented; “Avebury really was focused today and enabled me to keep my foot on the pedal and keep on the time.
“It’s tough to win at Barbury two years on the trot. It’s great to win here especially as he’s named after the local stone circle.”
Rayef’s mishap left Nicholson more than 10 points clear of his closest rival in second, Izzy Taylor and KBIS Starchaser who also completed this class last year.
Of the Wiltshire riders, Mark Todd was next best in 11th with Oloa, and Paul Tapner was disappointed to have 20 penalties late on with a tired Kilronan when otherwise very well placed. He said of the track; “Barbury has grown to become a premier event on both the national and the international competition circuits so we love going there.
“The hills at Barbury always make the course even more difficult than the jumps would suggest, it rides beautifully but as a rider you need to ride smart to make it round the whole track without penalties.
“He (Kilronan) next goes to Hopetoun 3* at Edinburgh in his next preparation for Burghley.”
Section B was won by the popular Piggy French who cruelly missed out on her Olympic dream when both her horses were injured. The local riders were in the mix here again with Kitty King typically competitive, placing fourth with Persimmon in his first attempt at three star. She was delighted with his performance, saying; “It’s really exciting that he went so well; he’s had some very good preparation so he should have had everything in place but he just coped with it all very easily, and didn’t get flustered with his changes in the dressage.
“He jumped round the two star there last year which had a few similar questions, so he wasn’t phased by anything. It’s a lovely track very well presented, but quite tough on the horses as there’s lots of gear changes and having to turn back on yourself so the fences do come up a bit quick. I just wanted to give him a nice round and get his qualification without going flat out and having a silly mistake. It was a great experience for him and we can kick on next time.”
Nicholson guided Nereo to fifth and Georgie Spence had an unfortunate 20 penalties across the country with Wii Limbo after impressive dressage and showjumping phases.
It wasn’t all plain sailing though, with time proving tight, and a number of other high profile riders came unstuck in the class including Mary King, Vittoria Panizzon (both on their Olympic horses) and Andrew Nicholson himself with his other ride Viscount George.
In the other two star sections, Tapner and Yogi Bear VIII finished a strong fifth with a single showjumping fence costing them second, whilst Pioneer Milly despite looking a little green on course at times, completed her first two star well.
Green commented; “She seemed to love every second, was a thrill to ride around. She is just so classy.
“Jack (CTS So What) is actually is starting to feel like the horse I had last year again which is really exciting - had a great round but ran past the skinny after the owl hole which is infuriating - but he did actually feel great.”
Another Marlborough rider retained his Barbury crown, when Tim Price took the Retraining of Racehorses championship. Price and Vortex jumped clear to clinch the title from Oliver Townend in second. Paul Tapner finished fourth and 11th with his two rides in this class, citing it as a particular highlight; “Great to have two horses in the ROR final SJ round on Sunday and both Lunces Lad and Inishmor performed to their best ability.”
The Novice sections were dominated by William Fox-Pitt who had no less than three wins. Remarkably across the board this rider accrued no jumping penalties from six completions.
Chippenham’s Georgie Spence was pleased with her two Novice runs when Billy Ball and Diamond Cove both took forward their consistent form to secure top ten finishes.
For my full album of photos from Saturday's action please see here.
* Please note that since this report was filed, Laura Collett had a serious fall at Tweseldown and remains in hospital at this stage. I wish her a full and speedy recovery and thoughts are with her and her family. *