NEW ZEALANDER Andrew Nicholson and double Burghley champion Avebury cruised to a title treble in the St James’ Place Barbury International Horse Trials after destroying a high-class field.
The former world number one took an advantage of 7.8 penalties into the CIC three star cross-country phase, and that lead never came under threat.
Nicholson could afford 4.8 time faults and still win by almost nine penalties from British combination Francis Whittington and Easy Target, with Australian Paul Tapner third aboard Yogi Bear VIII.
British stars Pippa Funnell (Second Supreme) and Tina Cook (De Novo News) were fourth and fifth, respectively, with Cook again illustrating the rich promise of her new four-star ride that has taken over from the retired and much-decorated Miners Frolic.
Just two combinations jumped clear inside the optimum time of six minutes 44 seconds – third-placed Tapner and Beanie Sturgis with Lebowski – while there were 17 eliminations and retirements.
Wiltshire-based Nicholson, 52, is now set to aim Avebury at a hat-trick of Burghley crowns in early September following a dominant display that saw them lead from day one in pursuit of a £5,000 top prize.
“It’s good to win just one (Barbury title), but to win three at what is my local event is great,” he said.
All five Great Britain current team members for next month’s World Equestrian Games – Funnell, Cook, Zara Phillips, William Fox-Pitt and Oliver Townend – were in action across various classes at Barbury, with Cook’s performance the highlight.
One rider will be added to the group following Izzy Taylor’s withdrawal last week on Allercombe Ellie, and team boss Yogi Breisner has delivered an upbeat assessment as Britain build towards defending the world title won in Kentucky four years ago.
The top six countries in Normandy from August 28-31 will also secure Rio Olympic Games qualification.
Meanwhile, Nicola Wilson dominated proceedings at Hopetoun at the start of the month. Her stalwart British team partner Opposition Buzz, now retired from CCI4* level, belied his 17 years to claim the CIC3* with a fast double clear. ‘Dodi’ has not finished out of the top four this season.
Northallerton’s Wilson was also victorious in the CIC2*, taking this title riding Ramscove Ltd’s Kiltealy Brief in what was their second competitive outing together. Beltane Queen finished third behind Kiltealy Brief, while Hero Motivator placed 6th in the CCI2*.
“It’s been a fantastic weekend of eventing at Hopetoun. It’s a beautiful setting and I was thrilled with how my horses went,” said Wilson. “It was such a treat to have a win with my Olympic horse Opposition Buzz and another win with the up and coming Kiltealy Brief. I look forward to returning next year.”
Flora Harris took the small CCI2* section by the narrowest of margins, riding her mother Caroline’s Cesano H, a nine-year-old Flora has produced from scratch. This was the son of Cesano II’s first win at any level.
Julie Lawson and Piggy French battled it out for the CIC1* honours, Julie’s Faerlie Special slipping ahead when Piggy’s Cooley Dream Extreme added two cross country time penalties to his score.
Only the CCI1* went home in foreign hands, albeit with British born Lucinda Fredericks, riding Cos I Will.
This was a truly international leaderboard, with India’s Ajai Appachu the runner up, China’s Alex Hua Tian third and India’s Fouaad Mirza fourth.
Riding high after the news of WEG selection were Zara Phillips and High Kingdom who looked to be proving the selectors right in their choice with a steady double clear in the CIC3*, to finish in sixth place.