Andrew Nicholson added a faultless jumping round on Avebury to his dressage score to retain the lead in the feature CIC3*event at the Barbury International Horse Trials on Saturday.
The leading New Zealand rider and world number two in eventing, who lives just down the road at Lockeridge, is sitting on 34.8 with only Sunday’s cross-country to go.
Avebury, who was home-bred by Andrew and is named after the local Roman earthworks, is quite a character and has a particular fondness for the amphitheatre of Barbury where he produced the best dressage test of his career.
“He’s in great form and he usually loves it here at Barbury, so I’ve just got my fingers crossed that he’ll enjoy himself like he usually does on tomorrow’s cross-country,” said owner Rosemary Barlow of her dual Burghley-winning horse.
Nicholson has 4.8 penalties in hand over US rider rider Clark Montgomery, who is also based locally with Swiss rider and judge Christian Landolt near Malmesbury. Montgomery also jumped clear on the Irish-bred Loughan Glen.
Mark Todd, who also lives near Barbury, at Bishopstone, is in third place on the German-bred Leonidas ll, his ride at next month’s All tech FEI World Equestrian Games in France.
Kristina Cook and her home-bred bay gelding De Novo News, who will be representing Great Britain at WEG, are in fourth place. “I’m really excited to have produced another horse to this level,” said Tina, who won world team gold on her senior team debut 20 years ago.
“I never take team selection for granted – it’s very special every time and I’m privileged to be part of it. I didn’t start eventing this horse until he was six and he’s done a lot in a short space of time. He isn’t the finished article yet but I think he’s ready for this step up.”
The CIC*** cross-country starts at 1.30pm on Sunday and the highest-placed riders will be going in reverse order of merit to create the thrilling climax for which Barbury is famed.
CCI 2* classes
Young British rider David Doel led from the start on Miss Caruso in CCI** Section B, narrowly beating two veteran New Zealanders, Andrew Nicholson on Libby Sellar’s stunning prospect Jet Set lV and former Olympic champion Blyth Tait riding Ronnie Bartlett’s Bear Necessity V.
Doel, 21, a farmer’s son from Laycock, Wiltshire, has successfully represented Britain in Junior and Young Rider teams but he is facing a race against time to get Miss Caruso qualified for this year’s Young Rider European Championships in Portugal in September. His preparation was thwarted by a broken collarbone at Houghton Hall last month.
“Miss Caruso is really my stable star because I’m in the process of getting some new young horses and trying to upgrade to seniors,” said David, who has set his sights on the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
He gained the ride on the 14-year-old mare earlier this year from Chris King. “I’m lucky to ride her. She’s an honest horse, smart on the flat and consistent. She’s definitely got a personality; she’s known as the princess on the yard.”
William Fox-Pitt led from the start on Top Biats to take the honours in Section C. Top Biats, a French-bred seven-year-old by Corofino, is owned by longstanding supporters Judy and Jeremy Skinner and David and Margie Hall.
Top Biats came to Fox-Pitt as a four-year-old, thanks to the enthusiasm of his breeder, Philippe Brivois. “He came from the same stud as [four-star horse] Oslo and after we won Pau [in 2011], Philippe kept saying ‘you must see my four-year-olds’. I was resisting, but he sent the horse anyway!” Fox-Pitt said.
“He’s a very, very smart horse and level-headed as well. He’s a lovely horse. I don’t what the future will hold with him, but I’m just enjoying him at every level.”
British-based Australian rider Chris Burton was second on Wild Duchess ahead of Kiwi Caroline Powell on Spice Sensation.
Sophie How, who was second after dressage on Pebbly Aga Khan, opted for a steady cross-country round and finished 12th with 21.2 time penalties.
The optimum cross-country time of 5 minutes 44 seconds is always notoriously hard to achieve on Barbury’s rolling hills, but Mary Edmundson managed it on Sonny Early, rising 29 places to sixth as a result.
Chris Burton finished only one second over the time to emerge the clear winner of Section D on Sue Lawson and Carolyn and Anthony Townsend’s Nobilis 18.
The nine-year-old Hanoverian by Nobrexx, who was competing in his first two-star competition, was bred in Germany and formerly competed by Dirk Schrade and Olympic champion Michael Jung.
Burton’s owners bought him for him to ride on the recommendation of Rachel Wakefield of Uptown Eventing. “He’s not the simplest horse to ride but we’re being patient with him because we think he’s four-star material,” he said.
“He was quite green around the cross-country here but he really showed his talent, because it’s no pushover here. But the [Mark Philips’s] course rode great. I love Barbury – it’s a super track. It’s always great fun here and gets you going.”
Britain’s Sarah Bullimore finished second, 8.6 penalties in arrears, on Lilly Corinne and Alex Liddle was third on Romeo Z.
Sweden’s European team silver medallist Ludwig Svennerstal, who is based in Britain, lay second after showjumping on Alexander lV, but went steadily across country to drop to 36th. Coral Keen, third at that stage, had a run-out on Aphrodisiac.
Only one of the 72 cross-country starters achieved the optimum time: Charlie Clover riding Chataigne Filice.
Early morning drizzle at Barbury gave way to lovely warm sunshine in the afternoon, and a bumper crowd enjoyed the varied entertainment – eventing, inter-hunt relays, showjumping and even a sheep show.