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Prices set their sights on Rio Olympics - Mildenhall's eventing couple name their rides

At a recent photocall for Prospect Hospice: Jonelle on Bango and Tim on Court Jester At a recent photocall for Prospect Hospice: Jonelle on Bango and Tim on Court Jester Tim and Jonelle Price first came to Britain in 2003.  Two years later they moved permanently to their base at Mere farm just north of Mildenhall - farm and stables owned by Tim and Melissa Brown.

Now they very much have their sights set on representing New Zealand at next year's Rio Olympics.

Their recent successes have earned them positions at the very summit of world eventing - Jonelle is currently the number one female rider in the world.   And Tim is at sixteenth position - out of a total of 3,680 riders in the International Equestrian Federation's rankings.

Horse and Hound have celebrated their successes with a three page feature  about the couple - complete with a set of excellent photographs.  In the course of the article they have named the horses they hope to take to Rio.

Tim's first choice for Rio is Wesko (owned by Christina Knudesn and the Wesko Syndicate.)  Tim and twelve-year-old Wesko won last year's the Luhmuhlen CIC4*.  Horse and Hound quote Tim: "He's a dude. He's such a strong character, he's almost human."

Tim's 'back-up' horse will probably be Bango - the nine-year-old gelding who was fifteenth at Luhmuhlen in June - his first four star event.

Jonelle's number one choice for Rio will be Trisha Rickards' and Jacky Green's Faerie Dianimo - fourth at Pau last year and second at Luhmuhlen this year.  Horse and Hound quote Tim as calling her - no doubt with a knowing smile - "a right little cow".

She is stubborn but brilliant.  In Jonelle's words: "She's the flip side of Wesko.  She's a handful every day of the week and you never quite know what is coming next....She's got an enormous heart and attitude - she thinks she is going to take on the world - and she is!"

And their prospects of making New Zealand's team for Rio?  Jonelle puts it this way: "For London, I was hanging in by a thread to get the last spot.  Hopefully this time we will be going among the front-runners.  I guess that's what four years of training and commitment does." 

There is, it should be said, quite a crowd of top ranking New Zealand eventers - most of them based in the Marlborough area - with their eyes firmly on Rio.

Rio bound

Who else will be at the Rio Olympics? The United States eventing team made sure of their place at Rio by winning the Pan-American Games 2015 at Toronto.  Eleven nations took part in the event.

The Americans took a marginal lead over the hosts in the dressage - and held onto it firmly through the cross-country and show jumping.  Winning silver were the  Brazilian team who are coached by another local New Zealander - Sir Mark Todd from Badgerstown.  Brazilian Ruy Fonesca won the individual bronze medal - with USA's Marilyn Little taking the individual gold.

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New plans announced for extensive re-modelling of Newbury Racecourse

Artist's impression of the new parade ring areaArtist's impression of the new parade ring areaNewbury racecourse has announced an ambitious programme of upgrades to its racing facilities and infrastructure.  This follows - and is part paid for - by the housing developments round the perimeter of the course.

200 new homes on the site are already occupied - the next phase will include 360 new apartments.  Sale of the land for this housing has enabled infrastructure work to begin.  

A new entrance from the north by a new bridge over the railway and the new car park are nearing completion.  The bridge is expected to open in time for November's three-day bet365 Festival meeting that includes the Hennessy Gold Cup.

Newbury Racecourse stands - from the racecourse sideNewbury Racecourse stands - from the racecourse sideNow Newbury racecourse has put in planning applications for a further scheme of works in two phases - with a total estimated cost of £20million. 

The first phase would start in January with the re-modelling of the parade ring area, new entrances and re-siting of other buildings around the ring.

Phase two would major on the refurbishment of the central Berkshire Stand and the Pall Mall building.  This phase will be reviewed in 2018 when likely financial returns from the investment will be clearer.
Outline planning permission for a 120 bedroom 4-star hotel is still valid, but there are no immediate plans to proceed with this part of the project.

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Champion jockey Richard Hughes retiring early to start training

Richard Hughes at NewburyRichard Hughes at NewburyRichard Hughes, who lives in Collingbourne Ducis and has been stable jockey to the nearby Hannons' training yard for twenty years, has announced he his retiring before the end of the current flat racing season.

As the Racing Post headline put it so succinctly: "Champ calling time at top of his game as he puts future first."  That future is his new career as a trainer - based just over the border in Hampshire at Stockbridge.

He had said he wanted to be flat racing's Champion Jockey for a fourth year running.  Now, as the preparations for his training yard take preference, he will retire in two weeks' time - at the end of Goodwood.  From August 1 he will no longer be a jockey.

Earlier in the year Hughes told Marlborough News Online that it would be harder to win the championship again as he had to make time to prepare his yard and employ his staff.  With 45 winners on the board, he could still have won the championship - though at present he is lying in second place in the table behind Silvestre de Sousa.

On Saturday (July 18) Richard Hughes rode a winner at Newbury.  He took the four-year-old Windfast, trained by Brian Meehan at Manton, to beat Mister Universe by a length in a seven furlong handicap.  As it happens Mister Universe was ridden by Silvestre de Sousa.

Richard Hughes in the Queen's racing colours Richard Hughes in the Queen's racing colours Hughes wrote in his Racing Post column: "It's only recently things started to change in my head.  I began to realise the enormity of what I was trying to take.  While at the July Sales at Newmarket it became obvious how much time, care and attention I must devote to the upcoming yearly sales.'

"I honestly feel my first full year of training will be the most important year in my training career."

Hughes apologised to those who had backed him to retain the championship.  Betfair Sportsbook and BoyleSports have said they will refund stakes on Hughes.

Richard Hannon, who is Hughes' brother-in-law, said: "`It's the end of an era but he wanted to enjoy his last couple of weeks and Goodwood has been good to him, so it's a nice place to end things."

Richard Hannon told the Racing Post: "I totally understand his situation.  He wants to get on with training and that's fine.  he has to do what's best for him."

2015 will indeed go down in racing history as the end of an era.  In April twenty times Champion Jump Jockey AP McCoy retired.

Before he retired: AP McCoy with trainer Jonjo O'NeillBefore he retired: AP McCoy with trainer Jonjo O'Neill

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They've done it! Andrew Nicholson and Avebury clinch their fourth successive title at the Barbury Horse Trials


Nicholson & Avebury at the Owl HoleNicholson & Avebury at the Owl HoleLockeridge-based Andrew Nicholson and the 'little' grey' Avebury won the CCI*** title - the feature competition at the St James's Place International Barbury Horse Trials on Sunday (July 12) - for an astounding fourth year running.

No horse in the history of eventing has ever won a class of this stature four times in succession. Last to go after a long afternoon’s tense wait, Rosemary and Mark Barlow’s wonderful 15-year-old grey was flawless across country, finishing 12 seconds inside the optimum time and easily holding his lead.

What was more Andrew Nicholson - a New Zealand Olympic medal winner - and the 15-year-old chestnut gelding Nereo took second place.  After the dressage, show jumping and cross country phases Nereo was a mere 4.4 penalty points behind his stable mate.

Members of the New Zealand elite squad took third (Sir Mark Todd and Leonidas II from Badgerstown) and fifth place (Tim Price and Ringwood Sky Boy from Mildenhall.)  There were two British entries in the top ten places: Nicola Wilson and Beltane Queen were fourth and Laura Collett and Grand Manoeuvre were sixth.

A sign of the form as the European Championships approach was the placing of two French entries in the top ten - and a third French pair at eleventh.  

The Barlows (who own Avebury) holding trophies - either side of David Bellamy (of St James's Place Wealth Management) with Penny Bunter and Nicholson on the rightThe Barlows (who own Avebury) holding trophies - either side of David Bellamy (of St James's Place Wealth Management) with Penny Bunter and Nicholson on the rightA celebratory family group: Andrew with his wife Wiggy and children Lily and ZachA celebratory family group: Andrew with his wife Wiggy and children Lily and ZachThe Championships will be held at Blair castle in Scotland in September - and it is very likely that Nicola Wilson and Laura Collette will have earned their place in the twelve strong British team.

It rained - sometimes very hard - up on the Marlborough Downs during the final cross-country section - and everyone got pretty wet.  But there were very few falls on the 3,910 metre course designed by Sir Mark Phillips. And not many riders overran the 6 minutes and 52 seconds optimum time for the course.

It was noted by the experts that the top five riders had no penalties against them in both the show jumping and cross country - and finished with just their dressage penalties.  A remarkable achievement - especially for those who went round the course later in the somewhat more slippery conditions.

In the final, cross country phase of the competition the riders that top the leader board from the first two phases go last and the crowds certainly stayed to watch the last few riders and see whether Avebury would make history.  

It was a very exciting finish. Not only was there a very tight margin between Nicholson's two horses, but Sir Mark Todd was just one tenth of a penalty point behind Nicholson and Nereo.

Sir Mark & Front StreetSir Mark & Front StreetEarlier in the day, Sir Mark Todd won the eighth running at Barbury of the Retrained Racehorse Eventing Championship title - a competition for racehorses that have not lasted long on the racetrack and are being retrained in another discipline - in this case as eventers.  

Sir Mark was riding Front Street. After his victory, Todd said: "I love thoroughbreds they have brilliant minds to work with.  I used to train racehorses in New Zealand and now we've just won a big Retraining of Racehorses class here at Barbury proving their versatility.   Front Street is such a genuine fellow and tries his heart out, which is typical of his breed."
Front Street, 11 years old, ran a total of eight times.  In his most successful outing  he took third place in a steeplechase at Plumpton. The competition is sponsored by the Retraining of Racehorses charity and the National Trainers Federation- the racehorse trainers' association.

[Click on photos to enlarge them.]


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Libby Law: eventing's premier photographer - with an accent on the New Zealand team


She is a familiar figure on the British eventing circuit - she wears dark clothes embroidered with her name and the name of her sponsors. She is about the same height as her two very long lenses - if you stacked one on top of the other.  And you can tell she works outside in the sun.

Libby Law is a New Zealander and since 2011 she has worked in Britain for about six summer months each year. At the end of October, when her business visa runs out,  she returns home for the New Zealand eventing and showjumping season.  

This year she came back to Britain via Kentucky for the Rolex CIC**** three day event - the first four star competition of the northern hemisphere season. And she had to watch her fellow New Zealander, friend and client, Tim Price and Wesko take down one rail in the showjumping to lose out on the $100,000 first prize to Germany's Michael Jung and Fischerrocano FST.

She is, she told Marlborough News Online with one of her cheeky grins, the only photographer to cover all six of the world's four star eventing competitions: "I love being part of the media for these occasions - I get a real adrenalin surge when I send good photos out to people who are really keen to use them."

She did not grow up with media connections, indeed she came to professional photography quite late in life.  She was brought up on a farm and rode horses.  But at nineteen and after her second scary three day event, she sold her horse and went off travelling.

She worked in Australia - in hotels, in marketing, the travel business and in radio. Shed went to Canada and fell in love: "Beautiful country, beautiful people."  Seven good years, but the love did not last.  And in 2010 she returned to New Zealand: "I was a little baffled with the world - but excited to be home."

Aged 34, she used her marketing experience to set up a cleaning company - paying good wages and with contracts to clean offices: "Never clean for private homes!  It's not worth the bother they give you."

Then along came another idea: photography.  She had had a camera from the age of eight and loved her photography and in Australia she had done some amateur courses.  So she set out on a new way of life: "I thought to myself, get a camera and allow yourself to follow your feet."

Having bought a good camera and set-up a website, her feet took her to meet some of New Zealand's young eventing stars - Lizzie Brown, Jock Paget and Jesse Campbell before they (and many other New Zealand eventers) moved to Britain.  They told her about eventing in Britain.  

The Little TurtleThe Little TurtleHRH Ninja - by HondaHRH Ninja - by HondaWith a 'you can only ask' attitude she applied to Badminton for accreditation - and got it.  She was amazed by the Badminton eventing scene - and then succeeded in getting accreditation to Burghley too.  That was in 2011.

"I know horses and am quite a confident person - I didn't worry about what people thought of me."  As good as her word, in 2012 she invested £40,000 in her first full season in Britain.  Some of that investment was a mobile home - her 'Little Turtle'  - which makes travelling round Britain and Europe so much easier and cheaper.  In winter it is kept at the Prices' Mere Farm.

Libby Law covering a polo tournamentLibby Law covering a polo tournamentIt is a full-on life: most of her regular clients are in New Zealand and  she will start to get emails from them at about eleven o'clock at night - and is often still sending off photos at three in the morning.  

She has a contract with Equestrian New Zealand's High Performance Squad, with the major Australian website An Eventful Life - which in fact covers most of the world's eventing and horse trials, and with the popular magazine New Zealand Horse and Pony.  She has other contracts and is, as she insists, a freelance: "I have the freedom to do what I want."

At home she is now sponsored by Honda New Zealand and is the proud owner of 'HRH Ninja'  - "My fab Honda CRV-Limited."

Has Libby Law Photography, I ask gingerly, now become known and valued internationally?  She mouths a 'yes'.  Recently she was invited to cover an important competition in Qatar, which is preparing an eventing team for the Rio Olympics:  "It was a fantastic occasion - and the light was just great for photographs."

In Britain she has the whole flock of New Zealand eventers around her - many of them in the Marlborough area: "Everything revolves around the New Zealand eventers. I love the closeness of the community - it's very comfortable."  But the more there are over in Britain the harder she has to work - in May there were 26 New Zealand horses taking part in Tattersall's International Horse Trials three day event in Ireland - and running between the rings and the events and catching all the competitors at the right moment is quite a skill - and she covers quite a few miles each day.


Libby Law's classic photo of New Zealander Jesse Campbell & Amsterdam IILibby Law's classic photo of New Zealander Jesse Campbell & Amsterdam II"Mark Todd is my hero - and I love the New Zealand eventers."  But she tells a story against herself about her first commissioned article shoot with Sir Mark: "I even left the lens cap on.  Mark just smiled - a little."

Libby Law is an enthusiast for her photography and her specialty: "Each year I love what I am doing a bit more.  I adore my work."  Now she is in the least bothered by the world.  She just smiles at life - and she smiles a lot!

[All marked photos are the copyright of Libby Law Photography.]

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Barbury Day Three: Avebury and Nicholson primed for fourth victory - and all the fun of the chaotic Champions Challenge delights the crowds


Nicholson and Avebury clear one of the Olympic fences at BarburyNicholson and Avebury clear one of the Olympic fences at BarburyFor the third day of the St James's Place Barbury International Horse Trials the weather stayed dry - and Avebury and Andrew Nicholson stayed top of the leader board in the feature competition.

Nicholson and Avebury were clear in the showjumping phase of the CIC*** competition.  With the neatest of rounds, the little grey gelding showed the wisdom of his fifteen years.

Alex Hua Tian & Don GeniroAlex Hua Tian & Don GeniroChina's Alex Hua Tian and Don Geniro are in second place - they also had a clear round.  Nicholson and Avebury's stablemate Nereo are in third position and fellow New Zealander Sir Mark Todd on Leonidas II are fourth - they are based not far from Barbury at Badgerstwon, on the edge of the Marlborough Downs.

Francis Whittington & Easy TargetFrancis Whittington & Easy TargetThen four British pairs - Sarah Bullimore & Lilly Corinne, Louise Harwood & Whitson, Francis Whittington & Easy Target (their four faults in Saturday's showjumping bumped then down from their overnight second place) and Laura Collett & Grand Manoeuvre.

There is keen competition amongst the British riders to gain a place in the British squad for the Longines FEI European Eventing Championship at Blair Castle in Scotland in September - as host nation the British team will have a twelve members team rather than the usual six.

A huge crowd assembled on the bank overlooking the main arena for the second running of the JCB Champions Challenge between teams of jockeys and eventers - and winners of the Inter Hunt Team Relay - in aid of the Injured Jockeys Fund.  

Captain of the EventersCaptain of the EventersCaptain of the Jockeys Captain of the Jockeys The two teams were:  for the jockeys -  AP McCoy (back in the saddle for the first time in public since he retired in April), Sam Twiston-Davies, Richard Johnson and Wayne Hutchinson (who rides for Barbury trainer Alan King.)  For the eventers -  Andrew Nicholson, Sir Mark Todd, Harry Meade and Tina Cook.  And it takes the vague form of a relay.

The two teams chose their horses from those which had previously run in the hunt relay races.  There had to be a little manipulation of the results as, amidst the chaos,  a hunt team won one of the heats - and the whole point was to have a ride-off between the jockeys and the eventers.   

The races had rules and rule breakers all of their own - and Richard Johnson managed to plough his way through two of the jumps.  But unlike one of the young hunt riders in the semi-finals, none of the jockeys or eventers ended up in the water.

If you believe social media, the eventers won.  But if I was on the jockeys team I would ask for a review of the photo finish.  Was there one?  And see below for further photos...

Eventers make a successful handoverEventers make a successful handoverWas that a handover ...?Was that a handover ...?Back to the serious competitions:  locally based New Zealand riders swept the board in the three sections of the CIC** class with Andrew Nicholson, Tim Price and Jesse Campbell taking one apiece.
The in-form Andrew Nicholson was unstoppable in section B, winning on the Headley Stud’s Loughnatousa Joey on the first occasion he had ridden the horse. He was the only rider of the 93 cross-country starters in the section to achieve the optimum time.


It would take more than a spot of rain to dampen the crowd's enthusiasm if Nicholson and Avebury achieve a fourth CIC*** win in a row.


Rosettes all round...Rosettes all round...

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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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