Andrew Nicholson (NZL) crowned perhaps the best season of his long and distinguished career when he won Les Etoiles de Pau (FRA), the first leg of the 2012/2013 HSBC FEI Classics™, on Libby Sellars’ talented chestnut Nereo this weekend.
The only rider to complete on his Dressage score, Pau was Nicholson’s fourth consecutive international victory this autumn, following Burghley, Blenheim and Boekelo, and his fourth CCI4* triumph in a career that has spanned some 30 years.
“This is what it’s all about,” said the hard-working New Zealander as he was congratulated afterwards. “Winning one CCI4* in 10 years is pretty good and to win two in two months feels amazing.
“I’m proud to be riding such classy horses, which is what I do this sport for. Nereo is probably the best Cross Country horse in the world and in the Jumping phase I knew that if I did my job we could win.”
It was a good day for New Zealand, as Jonathan Paget, the Cross Country leader, finished second on the much-admired Clifton Promise with just one rail down, and scored the best result of his fast-developing career.
“I knew the optimum time was influential so I was cracking on a bit and that’s when you tend to have fences down,” said Paget philosophically.
Nicholson, who now takes an early lead in the HSBC FEI Classics™ and intends to contest all of the events in the series apart from Adelaide, was also seventh on Mr Cruise Control.
Caroline Powell (NZL), Nicholson’s Olympic team mate, was eighth on the nine-year-old Onwards And Upwards and newcomer Alice Montgomery (NZL) was 21st on Gordon in her first CCI4*.
Michael Jung (GER) is another rider for whom 2012 has been a great year and he showed the strength in depth in his yard when second string Leopin FST finished third with just one fence down in today’s Jumping phase. He intends to bring this horse and his Olympic champion La Biosthetique Sam to Badminton in 2013.
William Fox-Pitt (GBR), the 2012 HSBC FEI Classics™ winner, showed he is not short of nice horses for the future either when finishing fourth on the youngster Bay My Hero and fifth with just one time fault on the stallion Chilli Morning.
Perhaps the biggest cheers from the large home crowd enjoying the welcome sunshine went to Astier Nicolas (FRA), sixth and highest placed French rider on Jhakti du Janlie. A former pupil of Andrew Nicholson’s, the young Frenchman said that the veteran New Zealander had taught him “focus, determination and hard work”.
Only one horse left the competition at the final horse inspection stage, Kevin McNab’s (AUS) Clifton Pinot, which was eliminated when in eighth place after Cross Country.
There were 32 finishers representing 11 nations, eight of which jumped clear in the final phase – though few of those were without time penalties – and Competition Manager Jean-Marc Varillon (FRA) said he was honoured that such a high-class field had contested Les Etoiles de Pau in 2012.
HSBC Training Bursary
Merel Blom (NED), 26, who finished 13th on the nine-year-old Holsteiner Rumour Has It, won the HSBC Training Bursary worth $1,000 for the best CCI4* debut. She lay 26th after Dressage with a score of 52.2 and added 17.6 time penalties across country, completing with just two time faults in the final Jumping round.
“I thought it was an amazing competition,” said Blom. “So much happened on Cross Country day that I am thrilled to have done so well at my first four-star and with such a young horse.”
Blom, a student of Dutch law and finance at Rotterdam University, is trained by Dutch Jumping chef d’equipe Rob Ehrens and Dressage rider Sander Marynissen and says she is “looking for an Eventing trainer now!”
She bought Rumour Has It as a six-year-old. The horse had previously been Jumping in Germany and started Eventing as a seven-year-old with Blom. He completed Bramham CCI3* (GBR) this year and was 21st in the CIC3* at Aachen (GER). Blom represented the Netherlands at the HSBC FEI European Eventing Championship at Luhmühlen in 2011, finishing 44th on Umberto DB.
About the Pau winner
Andrew Nicholson (NZL), 51, the current world number one and leader of the HSBC Rankings, is acknowledged as one of the most hard-working and naturally talented horsemen in Eventing. He first came to England as a 19-year-old and worked with racehorses.
His first CCI4* was Badminton in 1984, as a result of which he earned a place on the first New Zealand Olympic team, at Los Angeles. He went on to ride at five more Olympics, winning team silver in 1992 and team bronze in 1996 and 2012, when he finished fourth individually on Nereo. He also won team gold at the 1990 FEI World Equestrian Games™ and team and individual bronze on Nereo at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Kentucky (USA).
This is his fourth CCI4* win, following three Burghley victories, in 1995 on Buckley Province, in 2000 on Mr Smiffy and this year on Avebury. This is his fourth consecutive international victory this autumn, following Burghley, Blenheim CIC3* and Boekelo CCI3* (both on Quimbo). He was second in the HSBC FEI Classics™ 2011/2012. Andrew has two adult daughters, Rebecca and Melissa, and two young children, Lily and Zak, with his partner Wiggy Channer. They live near Marlborough, Wiltshire in the UK.
Final Results at Les Etoiles de Pau
1 Andrew Nicholson/Nereo (NZL) 39.0 + 0 + 0 = 39.0
2 Jonathan Paget/Clifton Promise (NZL) 36.7 + 0 + 4 = 40.7
3 Michael Jung/Leopin FST (GER) 38.3 + 0 + 5 = 43.3
4 William Fox-Pitt/Bay My Hero (GBR) 41.7 + 0 + 4 = 45.7
5 William Fox-Pitt/Chilli Morning (GBR) 44.7 + 0 + 1 = 45.7
6 Astier Nicolas/Jhakti du Janlie (FRA) 39.5 + 0 + 8 = 47.5
7 Andrew Nicholson/Mr Cruise Control (NZL) 45.7 + 0 + 4 = 49.7
8 Caroline Powell/Onwards And Upwards (NZL) 53.2 + 0 + 4 = 57.2
9 Richard Jones/Highland Ford (GBR) 52.8 + 6.8 + 4 = 63.6
10 Gemma Tattersall/Stormhill Kossack (GBR) 42.6 + 8 + 18 = 68.5
HSBC FEI Classics™ 2012/2013 Standings
1 Andrew Nicholson (NZL) 15 points
2 Jonathan Paget (NZL) 12
3 Michael Jung (GER) 10
4 William Fox-Pitt (GBR) 8
5 Astier Nicolas (FRA) 5
6 Caroline Powell (NZL) 3
7 Richard Jones (GBR) 2
8 Gemma Tattersall (GBR) 1