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Barbury Day Two: Andrew Nicholson and Avebury lead the three star competition after the dressage

Andrew Nicholson & Avebury (Photo: Katy Vincent)Andrew Nicholson & Avebury (Photo: Katy Vincent)You could hardly ask for a better or more exciting way to end the first two days of the premier CIC*** competition at the St James's Place Barbury International Horse Trials: three times winners Andrew Nicholson and his amazing grey Avebury top the leader board with a dressage score of 33.9 penalty points.

The crowd was strangely silent as New Zealand's Andrew Nicholson and the fifteen year gelding performed a near perfect test - then came the applause.  They have a two point lead over Britain's Francis Whittington on East Target (37.1.)

After their performance Nicholson said: "I don't warm Avebury up for too long, I trust him, he is fifteen now and knows his job.  It's mission accomplished so far - it's only a starting number, but it's a good one. And it would be great to make history again by completing a four timer here at Barbury."

Avebury was bred by Nicholson and is co-owned by Mrs Rosemary Barlow.  Last year Nicholson and Avebury went on from Barbury to win the Land Rover Burghley CIC**** competition.

Alex Hua Tian & Don GeniroAlex Hua Tian & Don GeniroFrancis Whittington & Easy TargetFrancis Whittington & Easy TargetIn third place after the dressage are China's Alex Hia Tian and Don Geniro (37.3.)  He is based in Britain and is China's only eventer competing internationally.

Andrew Nicholson and Nereo also hold fourth place at the end of the dressage.  With 38.3 penalties they led after the first day. There are eleven Brfitish riders in the top twenty places.

Saturday morning sees the show jumping discipline of the CIC*** competition - with the cross-country to follow on Sunday.  At lunchtime on Saturday the main ring sees the second running of the JCB Champions Challenge - a relay race between teams of jockeys (led this year by AP McCoy), eventers (led by that busy horseman Andrew Nicholson.)  This event raises money for the Injured Jockeys Fund.

Friday saw the novice classes - novice horses with some very experienced riders - tackle a shortened (800 yard) version of Barbury's famous downland cross-country course, designed by Captain Mark Phillips.

Of the nineteen obstacles the  St James's Place water and the steps at the Earthline Quarry seemed to giving riders and horses the most trouble.

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Barbury Day One: Andrew Nicholson and Nereo take the lead in the three star dressage

 

Andrew Nicholson and NereoAndrew Nicholson and NereoAfter the first day of the CIC** dressage competition at the St James's Place Barbury International Horse Trials, New Zealand's Andrew Nicholson tops the leader board on Nereo (with 38.3 penalties.)

Second is Britain's Louise Harwood on Whitson (39.6) and in third place is France's Mathieu Lemoine on Bart L (40.7.)    British rider Nana Dalton and Abbeylara Prince are in fourth position - having led up to the lunch break (43.5.)

Nicholson and Nereo came sixth at this year's Badminton, won the CIC**** at Pau in 2012 and came fourth at the London Olympics.  Nicholson has seven rides at the various competition levels.  Nicholson and Avebury (who have won the Barbury CIC*** for last three years) will be in dressage ring just after three o'clock on Friday afternoon.

Nicholson, who is based in Lockeridge, is lying second equal in the CIC** - behind fellow New Zealander Sir Mark Todd on Brownsville Bertie (38.6).  Nicholson and Loughnatousa Joey are in joint second place with Britain's Harry Meade on Vrolijk (38.7.)

Yogi Breisner & Nana Dalton and her assistantYogi Breisner & Nana Dalton and her assistantYogi Breisner, Louise Harwood & assistantYogi Breisner, Louise Harwood & assistantThe dressage performances by both Louise Harwood and Nana Dalton caught the eye of Yogi Breisner - the British Eventing National Coach and World Class Performance Manager.  And he took details of both riders and their assistants.  Though as someone watching the dressage noted:  "It is not quite a ticket to Rio, but it is certainly going in the right direction."

On Friday the novice competitors are first to take on the cross-country course.  And it looks as though the weather will hold through Saturday - though the ground might get a soaking for the CIC*** cross-country on Sunday afternoon.

The competitions are being live streamed through the Barbury website.The Willis Brothers team 'greening' the cross-country's ReadySupp Owl Hole The Willis Brothers team 'greening' the cross-country's ReadySupp Owl Hole

Click on photos to enlarge them. 

 

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Barbury International Horse Trials break a world record - can Nicholson and Avebury set another record?

 

Nigel Bunter at the cross-country courseNigel Bunter at the cross-country courseThe St James's Place Wealth Management Barbury International Horse Trials will be welcoming 1,150 horses when they open on Thursday (July 9.) That total is a hundred more than last year, is a record number for the event and it makes Barbury the world's largest international horse trials.

Barbury Chairman, Nigel Bunter, told Marlborough News Online: "We've spent a month looking at weather forecasts.  After the recent rain, the going should be near perfect - and it looks set fair for the weekend."  

The chalk under Barbury's famous grass downs and a wind over the top of it, dries the ground very quickly - even after last Friday's freak storms.  The grass is looking wonderfully green.

The highlight on Sunday will be the three star eventing competition's cross-country and all eyes will be on Lockeridge-based New Zealander Andrew Nicholson and his amazing 15-year-old grey Avebury who have won Barbury's premier three star event three years running.  

Nigel Bunter says they've already notched up a 'remarkable achievement' at Barbury: "They've been using our gallops for the last few months, so we know he's fit and ready to defend his title."

The 'Avebury' obstacleThe 'Avebury' obstacleWhatever happens in this year's competition, Avebury's name will live on at Barbury as they have now re-named their cross-country course's signature obstacle - the Stonehenge jump - after him.

Saturday's highlight will come at lunchtime with the second running of the JCB Champions Challenge - a relay held in the main ring.  The event raises money for the Injured Jockeys Fund.  

This year sees former Champion jockey AP McCoy's first ride in public since he retired at Sandown in April.  He is teamed with Richard Johnson (who may well take over from AP as jump champion), Sam Twiston-Davies (Paul Nichol's stable jockey) and Wayne Hutchinson (stable jockey to Alan King who trains at Barbury.)  

Opposing them will be a team of eventers led by Andrew Nicholson with Sir Mark Todd, Harry Meade and Tina Cook.  The third team will come from the winners of the Inter Hunt Scurry competition.  Last year the jockeys - then led by John Francome - won.

When we were at Barbury on Tuesday morning it was obvious the downland site was nearly ready for the horses - and the crowds which usually number about 15,000 over the four days.  The Willis Brothers were out working on the cross-country course.  

They have to give the obstacles a make over a few days before the event so the birch can stay green in the jumps.  Some of the birch they were using comes from Savernake Forest.  Later the jumps will be inspected to make sure they are exactly the right height and thickness.

 Ashley Willis and Stewart Roberts at work on a cross-country jumpAshley Willis and Stewart Roberts at work on a cross-country jump

The Willis Brothers are based near Malmesbury and create obstacles for designers of many cross-country courses.  In the past they have made Olympic courses and have won the contract for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

This September the European Eventing Championship are being held at Blair castle in Scotland.  This has brought a much larger than usual contingent of European eventers to Barbury.  And, of course, the locally-based New Zealand eventers will be there in force too - including Jonelle Price (third in the world rankings), Andrew Nicholson (fifth) Tim Price (at 16) and Sir Mark Todd (at 17.)

 

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It’s Barbury week: Jonelle Price back at third place in world eventing rankings : five Brits in top twenty

Jonelle Price Jonelle Price With the Barbury International Horse Trials starting later this week, there is special interest in the International Equestrian Federation's new set of worldwide rankings for eventing riders.  This list covers the twelve months up to June 30 - and Mildenhall's New Zealand rider Jonelle Price is back as number three in the world.

She had been at three last year, but dropped to fifth in the FEI's previous list.  In June she came a tantalising second in the Luhmuhlen four star on Fairie Dianimo

Jonelle's husband Tim has dipped in the rankings from nine to sixteenth place - and that despite his brilliant performance coming a close second on Wesko at this spring's prestigious Rolex Kentucky competition.

The Prices are great fans of the Barbury International Horse Trials - not least because they are based so close by.  And they have put their names to Barbury's fundraising for the Prospect Hospice.

The top two places in the new rankings see Germany's Michael Jung and Britain's William Fox-Pitt change places with Jung now top of the list.

Lockeridge-based New Zealander Andrew Nicholson is at five - down one rung.  And another locally-based New Zealander, Sir Mark Todd is back in the top twenty at 17 - up from 42nd position.

There are now five British eventers in the FEI's top twenty - with two of them joining William Fox-Pitt in the top ten.  Oliver Townend is at eighth - from seventh.  Nicola Wilson stays at tenth place - with a good performance at Kentucky behind her.  

Pippa Funnell has come back into the top twenty with a startling jump to fifteenth position from 31st.  And Gemma Tattersall is at 19 - up from 21.  

Many of these big eventing names will be competing at this week's Barbury International Horse Trials.

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Changing places: Sally Randell takes over Broad Hinton training yard from Andy Turnell

 

Sally Randell and KillimordalySally Randell and KillimordalySally Randell has just applied for her training licence.  For the past year she has been assistant trainer at Andy Turnell's yard on the edge of Broad Hinton - soon she will be taking over the yard.  

Turnell, who as a youngster was a star jockey and then became the quiet man of racehorse training, is still recovering from the stroke he had two years ago which paralysed much of his right side.  He will be changing to a 'supporting role' at the stables.

He and his wife hit it off with Sally from the word go.  He told the Racing Post: "I'm confident this will work.  Apart from being a tireless worker, Sally is bringing new owners to the yard."

Turnell 'inherited' his licence from his father who trained at Ogbourne Maizey.  But Turnell, who is now 66, moved his training establishment around England, before settling back to Wiltshire and his everyday view of the Hackpen white horse.

Sally had been training point-to-pointers in Wales and when she arrived at the Turnell yard just a year ago, it was empty.  While Andy was recovering from his stroke, the horses had gone to other other trainers.  Working together closely , Andy, his wife Gilly and Sally have re-built the yard and have been having successes - six winners in the 2014-2015 jump season.

There are now seven horses training in the licensed yard for the summer.  In the winter Sally hopes to get that up to sixteen or seventeen.

Sally has completed her three modules at Newmarket's British Racing School.  Also on her courses was another soon-to-be trainer from just the other side of Marlborough, champion jockey Richard Hughes.

On the all-weather circuit On the all-weather circuit When Marlborough News Online was at the stables, Sally and amateur jockey Brodie Hampson were riding out the final two horses of the morning.  Brodie was on the eight year-old Waddingtown Hero who has had two recent wins in chases at Ffos Las.

"Ffos Las has been good for us," says Sally with a smile.  But looking closer at the results tables you find that Waddingtown Hero has come third-first-second-second-first in his last five races - providing quite a tonic for the yard.

Sally was riding the bay gelding Killimordaly - a six year-old named after a village near Galway.  His Irish owner, Patsy Hardiman, died recently - very suddenly.   

Sally Randell, Donnas Palm, Brodie Hampson Sally Randell, Donnas Palm, Brodie Hampson His  family are keeping Hardiman's other horse, the four year-old Any Destination.  But Sally is now forming a syndicate to keep Killimordaly at the yard.  He raced over hurdles last season and early in June he came second in a two mile seven furlong chase at Ffos Las.

Brodie, in the earliest of her twenties, has known Sally since she was eleven.  Her father was Sally's detachment commander when they were serving with the Royal Artillery.  And she met Brodie who kept a pony at the regimental Saddle Club when Sally was there.  

They have worked together for five years and Sally believes Brodie has a great future as a jockey.  She won her first ever point-to-point race and with six wins over jumps and under rules she came second in the 2014-2015 Amateur Lady Jockeys National Hunt Championship - behind Bridget Andrews.

Sally told us that one of best memories of her year at the stables was seeing the delight on Andy Turnell's face when Brodie rode Aristocracy to a three lengths victory in a hurdle race at Wincanton last November: "He thinks the world of Brodie."

Sally herself was no mean jockey and only announced her retirement earlier this year.  In 2009, riding Oakfield Legend, she became the first woman to win Sandown's Grand Military Gold Cup.  She won it again in 2014 on Bradley and again this year on Loose Chips.   

Another boost to her year has been seeing how Andy made great progress in his recovery once the horses were back in the yard: "He's back to his old self."  

He travels to the races with Sally, but gets pretty tired.  Every week he goes to Oaksey House, the Injured Jockeys Fund headquarters in Lambourn, for physiotherapy - and he rides with the Lambourn Riding for the Disabled.

Sally says the Turnell training establishment is "A really great yard" and she is very pleased to be taking it over.  It has 17 licensed boxes, enough paddocks for the horses to be turned out every day, an under-cover horse walker ("Great for the winter!") and a long all-weather circuit.  Further down, the barn has sixteen more horses that Sally plans to keep for point-to-pointers.

Brodie Hampson & Donnas Palm at the Cambridge Harriers Point-to-Point, Cottenham December 2014 (Photo copyright Racehorse Photos) Brodie Hampson & Donnas Palm at the Cambridge Harriers Point-to-Point, Cottenham December 2014 (Photo copyright Racehorse Photos) On the day we visited Sally, yard manager Gerald Burton and his son Sam were away on training courses.  Sam is just turning sixteen and joins as a novice aiming to be an amateur jockey.

Sally has just appointed Emma Owen to look after the yard's admin and publicity, and she too has been at the Racing School.  And Kate Leahy is joining the team soon.

And then we are introduced to Donnas Palm - an eleven year-old grey gelding with a history and now quite a magisterial presence at the yard.  

Beginning in 2008, Donnas Palm raced in Ireland and chalked up six wins and three seconds in his first 13 outings.  Ridden by such well-known jockeys as Paul Carberry and Barry Geraghty, he won eleven races under rules.   Racing in England from April 2013 onwards was not such a success.

He is now trained by Sally for point-to-pointing.  In that first race in Ireland at Navan he was ridden by Nina Carberry, so it is fitting that Brodie Hampson has been racing him recently.

Brodie says he is an 'absolutely straightforward horse'.  There is, however, a 'but'.  If he finds himself in the 'wrong position' with other horses in a race "He simply tries his best to stop."  Brodie now has the measure of him and Sally hopes he will be at the yard for the rest of his days.

Thanks to Racehorse Photos for use of their photo of Brodie Hampson and Donnas Palm.

[Click on photos to enlarge them.]

 

 

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Switching saddles: Newbury racecourse welcomes Victoria Pendleton's first public outing as a jockey

 

Riding down to the start (photo by kind permission of Betfair)Riding down to the start (photo by kind permission of Betfair)Victoria Pendleton - the 'golden girl' of British cycling - started riding just nineteen weeks ago and at Newbury Racecourse on Thursday evening (July 2) she took part in a charity race - her first outing in public.  The flat race, The George Frewer Celebration Sweepstake over one mile and five furlongs, was the first on the evening card raising funds for the Key4Life charity.  

She said afterwards that she was thrilled with her first ride in a race.  She finished eighth in a field of eleven on the eight year-old bay gelding Mighty Mambo - trained by Lawney Hill at her Oxfordshire yard and for whom Victoria is now riding out.  

As one seasoned racing correspondent put it: "Few novice riders would even begin to contemplate anything like a public race and fewer still would have sustained such enthusiasm in the face of the inevitable tumbles and petty humiliations that horses deliver." (Chris Cook, The Guardian.)

The walk from the weighing room: Victoria and Charlotte PlunkettThe walk from the weighing room: Victoria and Charlotte PlunkettPendleton and Mighty Mambo got away rather slowly from the start.  But she made some late progress: "I gave him too much to do. There's a really long straight here and I thought some horses would blow out so I wanted to bide my time.  It was over too quickly.  I wish I could do it again."

 The charity race was won by Oratorio's Joy trained by Mr J.A.Osborne and ridden by Maisie Turner, with Charlotte Plunkett (Barbury trainer Alan King's PA) second on Uriah Heap - trained by her boss.

Safely on board - watched by Alan King (at right) Safely on board - watched by Alan King (at right) The age range of the riders taking part in the charity race was staggering.  The youngest was Jacob Jelfs (aged 20) - he rides out for trainer Charlie Hills.  And the oldest was Sir Mark Todd (aged 59) New Zealand eventing star based just over the Marlborough Downs at Badgerstown.  He almost certainly has more Olympic medals than Ms Pendleton.

The challenge to Victoria Pendleton from Betfair proved to be one she could not refuse. It was not just a challenge to switch from bicycle to horse, but to become a race jockey.  

Once she had retired from competitive cycling after the London Olympics, she had been looking for a challenge - perhaps a challenge a little more atuned to her skills and love of speed than Strictly Come Dancing.  Betfair provide it: they wanted to find "an unexpected and entertaining perspective on horse racing, while also profiling the skills, athleticism and courage faced by jockeys every day."  

Training is hard work:  riding out (Betfair photo) Training is hard work: riding out (Betfair photo) Victoria & AP McCoyVictoria & AP McCoyBetfair assembled a team of experts to make sure Victoria could reach their ambitious target.  The team included chef d'equipe of the British eventing team, Yogi Breisner, trainer Lawney Hill, para-dressage rider Tamsin Addison, champion trainer and Betfair ambassador Paul Nichols.  Oh, and she had some words of wisdom from another retired champion - AP McCoy.

At 34-years-old, Victoria had been riding bicycles since she was three-years-old and had only had the occasional holiday pony ride.  Her record made her Britain's most successful woman Olympic athlete, so she certainly knows about the hard work and dedication the change of saddles would involve.  

[To enlarge click on image][To enlarge click on image]The Betfair challenge aims to get Victoria ready to take part in the Foxhunters Amateur Chase at the 2016 Cheltenham Festival.  On the way she will have more charity races before she goes to the British Racing School to see whether she qualifies for an amateur's licence. And before the end of 2015 she hopes to be able to have some point-to-point rides.

Betfair's Mark Ody, is more than hopeful she will make the Cheltenham race:  "With Victoria's Olympic pedigree, our support network, a lot of hard work, we're all hugely confident that we'll be cheering Victoria on in the Foxhunters Amateur at Cheltenham Festival 2016."


The George Frewer Charity Race at Newbury (sponsored by the Bernard Sunley Charitable Foundation) was in memory of George Frewer, who died in a freak accident on what would have been his 17th birthday.  His passion was horse racing. To date over of £450,000 has been raised in his memory.

 

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Kauto Star put down after a fall in the paddock

Kauto Star and Laura Collett in July 2013Kauto Star and Laura Collett in July 2013Kauto Star - the gelding who won races and racegoers' hearts - has been put down after falling in the paddock and suffering severe neck and pelvis injuries.

The British eventer Laura Collett announced his death on Twitter.

The 15-year-old had been retired from racing in 2012 and Laura Collett had successfully retrained him in dressage.  

Kauto Star and Laura gave a dressage display at the Barbury Horse Trials last year.  And in March they appeared together in publicity for Channel 4's Cheltenham Festival coverage - along with Denman, Big Bucks and Masterminded.

Kauto Star won the Cheltenham Gold Cup twice.  He won 23 of his 41 races, including five King George VI Steeplechases.

Kauto Star's owner, Clive Smith told BBC Radio 5 live: "It is really devastating - he was looking fit and well at Laura Collett's yard. The main injury was to the neck, as it gets worse it attacks the spinal cord. He also fractured his pelvic bone. A really sad time indeed."

"He had a great talent for never giving up. He wanted to win. With jockey Ruby Walsh riding him, he put this massive effort in at the end of races. He had a heart of a lion."

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Local champion jockey Richard Hughes will start his training career sooner than expected

Richard Hughes and the championship trophyRichard Hughes and the championship trophyRichard Hughes will be moving away from his Marlborough home (well, Collingbourne Ducis really) sooner than planned - he wants to get started as a trainer this autumn.  Yet he still wants to be champion jockey - for the fourth year running.

In his Racing Post column (Friday, June 26), Hughes revealed he had completed his formal training to become a trainer, his yard just over the border at Danebury in Hampshire was ready and he was looking forward to buying his first horses at the July sales: "I cannot allow my training career to be jeopardised by my championship ambitions."

Hughes is currently on 37 winners for this flat race season.  That puts him level with  Silvestre de Sousa.  But Ryan Moore is ahead with 47 victories.

Following his Racing Post column, Richard Hughes is no longer odds on to win the championship.  He is now a 5-1 chance.

"The truth is, I absolutely cannot wait to train.  I had thought I would aim to kick off next year, but my thinking has changed and my ambition is to saddle my first runners in September or October."  He stresses he is still a committed jockey - and wants to win the championship: "...I'll continue to give 100 per cent to every horse I ride."

Hughes will be training on the site of Stockbridge racecourse.  This has a long and formidable history - but it is pretty ancient history.

The racecourse closed in 1898.  You can still see a small reminder of the abandoned Victorian stand which burnt down some decades ago.  Racehorses have been trained at Danebury for many years - its stables boast a Derby and a Grand National winner.  Though the Derby winner was Andover in 1836 and the Grand National winner was Playfair in 1888.

Hughes will be taking over Ken Cunningham-Brown's Danebury yard: "Ken would love nothing more than for Danebury to get back on the map and to one day rival Manton - and it could, because it really is that good."

It has 300 acres of grass gallops, a one-mile peat gallop, a one-mile woodchip, a round half-mile sand gallop and a five-furlong straight gallop going through the woods.

Richard Hughes already has promises from several owners that they will send horses to him.  He rounded off his column: "I hope you can tell how eager and excited I am.  I love being a jockey, but I know I will love being a trainer every bit as much."

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