Nicholson 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 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 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 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 handoverWas 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...
L-R: Tim Price, Astier Nicolas, Rebecca Howard, Sir Mark Todd, Flora Harris, Jonelle Price, Andrew Nicholson (Photo by Niels Van Gijn)The St James's Place Barbury International Horse Trials held at the Barbury Castle Estate on the Marlborough Downs next week (July 7-10) are seen as a home fixture, a local event for the impressive clutch of eventers based in the surrounding area.
The organisers gathered together seven of the best for a 'photocall at the cross country obstacle named after four-times winner of the Barbury CIC3* event, the popular grey Avebury ridden by Andrew Nicholson.
The seven event riders at the photocall were Tim Price (New Zealand), Astier Nicolas (France), Rebecca Howard (Canada), Sir Mark Todd (New Zealand), Flora Harris (Great Britain), Jonelle Price (New Zealand) and Andrew Nicholson (New Zealand) - they are all based within a fifteen mile radius of Barbury - and will all be competing there.
All seven of them are either decorated Olympians, members of their country's high performance squads, already selected to represent or are long-listed for their country's team at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Nigel Bunter, owner of the Barbury Castle Estate and the event's Chairman, expects a thousand and more horse and rider combinations - including Rio hopefuls - to be at Barbury: “Nowhere in the UK and probably the world compares with the number of world class event riders that are based within a 15 mile radius of Barbury Castle, Marlborough and we are really looking forward to welcoming them all here to their local event."
Apart from the extra interest added to the Barbury International Horse Trials' competitions by the Rio Games, there is a new addition to the programme this year. The third leg of the Event Rider Masters (ERM) will be held on Saturday and Sunday.
The introduction of the ERM is giving the sport of eventing an extra lift and making it the focus for a lot of public attention. Each leg is covered by television cameras and live streamed to a worldwide audience.
This new sporting series is showcasing the world’s best event riders with a total of £350,000 in prize money on offer with each leg promising a minimum of £50,000. It comes too with a touch of Formula One glamour - complete with generous spraying of champagne on the winners' podium.
Avebury & Andrew Nicholson on the way to their 2015 Barbury win Also based near to Barbury but not pictured are Team GB long-listed Rio hope Kitty King (Chippenham - 14 miles), Australia's former winner of the Badminton Horse Trials Paul Tapner (Blunsdon, Swindon - 9 miles), and New Zealand High Performance athlete Jesse Campbell (Ramsbury - 10 miles from Barbury).
Those three Wiltshire eventers and six of those featured in the group photo above will be taking part in the Barbury leg of the ERM competition.
There is going to be one noticeable absentee of the competitions at Barbury this year. Andrew Nicholson's sixteen-year-old grey gelding Avebury (owned by Mrs Rosemary Barlow and Mr Mark Barlow) has been retired. Avebury will be missed by many.
Tickets for the Barbury International Horse Trials start from £12 per person per day booked in advance. Children under 12 years go free. For information and tickets visit the Barbury website or call 01672 516125.
Flora Harris (Great Britain), Uffcot, Wroughton (2 miles from Barbury)
· Team GB high performance athlete
· Winner of Bramham CIC 3* (2015) (Bayano)
· Winner Barbury CIC2* 2013 (Amazing VIII)
Andrew Nicholson (New Zealand - NZ), Lockeridge, Marlborough (4 miles from Barbury)
· Barbury International Horse Trials CIC3* winner 2012-2015 (Avebury)
· Selected to ride in seven Olympic Games
· CCI 4 star wins:
Burghley Horse Trials – 1995, 2000, 2012, 2013, 2014
2012 Pau Horse Trials riding Nereo,
2013 Kentucky Horse Trials riding Quimbo
2013 Lumuhlen Horse Trials riding Mr Cruise Control
Tim Price (NZ), Mildenhall, Marlborough (5.6 miles from Barbury)
· Named as New Zealand's travelling reserve for Rio 2016
· Winner of 2014 Luhmullen 4* riding Wesko
· Second 2015 Burghley Horse Trials with Ringwood Sky Boy
· Member of Team NZ 2014 Word Equestrian Games (WEG)
Jonelle Price (NZ), Mildenhall, Marlborough (5.6 miles from Barbury)
· Named as a member of New Zealand’s Eventing team for Rio 2016
· Member of the bronze medal team 2012 London Olympics riding Flintstar
· 4th WEG 2014 riding Classic Moet
· Tim and Jonelle made history in 2014 when they became the first husband and wife team to represent New Zealand at the World Equestrian Games
Sir Mark Todd (NZ), Badgerstown, Swindon (7 miles from Barbury)
· Voted rider of the 20th Century
· Competed in six Olympic games - Rio will be his seventh
· Named as a member of New Zealand’s Eventing team for Rio 2016
· Olympic medals – 2 Olympic gold medals (84 & 88), team Bronze 88, Team Silver 92, Olympic bronze 2000, Olympic bronze 2012
· Winner of the Badminton Horse Trials titles – 1994, 1996, 2011
· Winner of the Burghley Horse Trials titles - 1987, 1990, 1997,1999
Astier Nicolas (France), Stockley, Calne, (9.9 miles from Barbury)
· Current leader of the Event Rider Masters series
· Winner of 2015 Pau CIC4* horse trials riding Piaf de B’neville
· Long-listed for France's 2016 Olympic team in Rio
Rebecca Howard (Canada), Little Cheverell, Devizes, (15 miles from Barbury)
· Represented Canada at 2012 London Olympics and 2010 World Equestrian Games riding Riddlemaster
· 2013 Canadian Equestrian of the year
· Hotly tipped to represent Canada at the 2016 Olympics at Rio riding Riddlemaster
Nigel 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' 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 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.)
AP's winning salute (Photo from Channel 4 Racing)It might have been just another Grade One victory for AP McCoy - the nineteen times jump champion jockey who retires at the end of this season. But his victory in the Ryanair Chase on the Alan King trained Uxizandre was all the sweeter as it put McCoy on the winners' board for his last ever Cheltenham Festival.
McCoy gave the 16-1 shot a perfect ride from the front and the pair had plenty left in the tank to fend off of the challenge of runner-up Ma Filleule on Cheltenham's famous home-run hill. The seven year-old gelding won by five lengths.
With another huge crowd for the third day of the Cheltenham Festival, McCoy was cheered into the winner's enclosure and was quick to praise Alan King:
"All credit to the trainer - he got him back spot on for the day that mattered. Uxizandre gave me such a thrilling ride. I'll miss days like this."
Uxizandre is owned by JP McManus who McCoy calls 'my boss': "It's great for JP and Noreen MacManus - they are brilliant and it's been marvellous to work for them for ten years. The thrill this horse gave me - I'll miss riding horses like this that run away with you all the way and jump like stags."
AP with his Ryanair Chase trophy - his wife Chanelle is on the right [Photo: Channel 4 Racing]Alan King was full of smiles after this important win: "That was grand...AP has given him a wonderful ride, the visor has probably helped as well. It all felt right. When he's on song, he can go a right gallop...he got into a great rhythm today."
And King paid tribute to McCoy: "AP has been just phenomenal - we'll never see his like again. The winners, the dedication, the commitment - he's quite remarkable. I'm just please to be a very, very small part of it."
The prize money for the race was £300,000 of which the winning owner received £178,538.25.
Smad Place gets a pre-race gallop at Newbury (November 2014)Tomorrow (Friday, March 13) is Gold Cup day and Alan King's yard will be represented by the 7 year-old grey gelding Smad Place.
King says of him: "Smad Place has a good record at the Festival and this is his time of the year, besides which the better ground will also help. We gave him time to recover after the Hennessy [at Newbury on 29 November 2014] , and he showed plenty of enthusiasm on [Cheltenham] Trials day."
French-bred Smad Place will be ridden by King's stable jockey Wayne Hutchinson. And AP McCoy will be on Carlingford Lough - and again he will be wearing the McManus colours.
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 GeniroFrancis 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.
Rory Bremner - Brighter Futures' patron The St. James’s Place Barbury International Horse Trials (July 7-10) have announced they will be supporting Great Western Hospital's Brighter Futures as their official charity at this year’s event on the Marlborough Downs. And a very special local participant hopes to be competing during the four-day event.
In addition to Brighter Futures fundraising activities across the horse trials for its radiotherapy appeal, they will be hosting a lunch on the Saturday (July 9) with the charity's patron Rory Bremner as guest speaker. The lunch is being supported by local Rotary Clubs.
Brighter Futures launched an appeal last May to raise the £2.9 million needed to make radiotherapy treatment available in Swindon - so that local cancer patients will no longer have to make the 70-mile round trip to Oxford.
This year the Barbury International Horse Trials and the Brighter Futures lunch will be particularly poignant for James Hussey - a local farmer and eventing competitor.
James Hussey with Kildare Kid - 'Tim' - training for the Barbury International Horse TrialsJames, who is 58 years old and has already raised a substantial amount for the appeal, hopes to compete at the horse trials in July on board his horse Tim.
He will be riding in memory of his wife Gill, who died from cancer: "Gill always had a very special love of horses and the local countryside, she was very involved with conservation projects both on the farm and the Marlborough Downs."
"She was always a great supporter of eventing, loving the sport, and always supporting myself and our daughter Julia."
"Barbury International Horse Trials is a pinnacle of the eventing calendar, and I am looking forward to being back there this year competing in memory of Gill, and supporting Brighter Futures, to help make life easier for those dealing with cancer."
“The Brighter Futures appeal is so important to raise funds for a new radiotherapy unit in Swindon. Gill and I would regularly make 70 mile round trip to Oxford for radiotherapy treatment, it was exhausting both mentally and physically. "
"Having a unit in Swindon will help patients and their families in the region face the challenge of cancer”.
Nigel Bunter, Chairman of the Barbury International Horse Trials added: “We are very proud to support Brighter Futures at this year’s horse trials, their radiotherapy unit appeal is very important for the Wiltshire region."
“The lunch is set to be very popular as the Barbury Club marquee offers fantastic viewing of the eventing competition whilst enjoying a delicious lunch."
Jennifer Green, Head of Fundraising for Brighter Futures, is delighted at the announcement: “So far we’ve raised nearly £700,000 towards the £2.9 million required to pay for the equipment for the new Radiotherapy unit. We hope that the people and businesses from the region will support this fabulous lunch and our appeal for this important cause."
Tickets to the lunch are just £80 and include VIP parking, champagne reception and a two course lunch with wine.
The St. James’s Place Barbury International Horse Trials host four days of awesome Eventing competition with over 1,000 horse and rider combinations poised to compete. This year they will be an important pre-cursor to the 2016 Olympics with many riders destined for Rio taking part.
New this year will be the third leg of the inaugural Event Rider Masters (ERM) - an exciting sporting series, showcasing the world’s best event riders with a total of £350,000 in prize money on offer with each leg promising a minimum of £50,000.
To buy tickets for the Brighter Futures lunch and to the horse trials, and also to follow James’s training progress via the Barbury Blog - visit the Barbury website.
You can find out more about the radiotherapy appeal at the Brighter Futures website.
Double Olympic cycling champion Victoria Pendleton took another step on her 'changing saddles' challenge in her second point-to-point ride at the Point-to-Point Owners and Riders Association meeting at a very wet Barbury Racecourse on Sunday (December 6.)
She rode According to Sarah in the AGA Ladies Open race. One experienced racing correspondent tweeted that she was 'comfortable and in control' and later wrote she was 'growing in confidence'.
But after coming up to join the leaders, the seven-year-old mare tired and Victoria pulled her up two fences from home.
In October she came off during a flat race at Newbury - and was none the worse for her fall. Last month she rode her first race over jumps at the Black Forest Lodge point-to-point in Devon. Again she pulled up before the second to last fence.
Victoria Pendelton's challenge is being sponsored by Betfair and she has been schooling with Betfair Ambassador Paul Nicholls' horses. Last Thursday Nicholls reported that he was nearly rundown and she nearly came unstuck when Ceasar Milan decided not to take a jump during schooling at Nicholls' yard.
Victoria Pendleton may be riding next Sunday (December 13) at the Hursley Hambledon point-to-point at Larkhill.
Wesko and Tim Price at Pau (Photo by Libby Law - copyright Libby Law Photography)Eventing horse Wesko - one of New Zealanders Jonelle and Tim Price's string of eventers based at Mere Farm, Mildenhall - has just been named Horse of the Year for the 2015 season by British Eventing.
A 12-year-old Dutch bred gelding, Wesko - also known as Dash - notched up 415 points over the 2015 season to beat Sir Mark Todd's Leonidas II - the long-time points leader. Wesko is owned by Christina Knudsen and the Wesko Syndicate.
Last weekend Tim Price and Wesko capped their 2015 successes with third place at the CCI4* at Les Etoiles de Pau - the final four star competition of the season.
It was an exciting finish: Tim Price and Wesko added no faults to their dressage score. But with German star Michael Jung in first and second place, he had to withdraw his leading horse before the show jumping. Jung's second horse had one jump down leaving French contestant Astier Nicolas to win - an understandably popular result with the Pau crowds - with Price in third place.
In 2011 Wesko made a great start to his career winning from pre-novice to CIC** and keeping safely in the top three places through the season. Tim Price forgave Dash for dumping him into the water at Badminton and they won the Luhmuhlen for star in 2014.
The 2015 season started on a high when the pair came second at the prestigious Lexington four star in April. The Prices are Key Riders and use exclusively Keyflow Feeds for their team of horses.
Wesko getting taste of Kentucky grassNext target for Tim Price and Wesko will be the 2016 Rio Olympics. With his Lexington performance Wesko has proved he does not mind air travel.
The highest placed British-bred horse in the British Eventing rankings was Jonelle Price’s eventing partner Classic Moet owned by Trish Rickards. Following many success including recent fifth place at Burghley, the mare ended the season on 318 points - taking fifth place in the overall rankings.
Notable in the riders' rankings was British eventer Oliver Townend's first place both overall and for British riders. Townend won by a huge margin from New Zealanders Andrew Nicholson (who is still recovering from a fall earlier in the season) and Tim Price.
Nineteen-year-old Emily King from Devon was named leading under-21 rider. She finished fourth at Pau on Brookleigh - her first ever four star competition.
FOOTNOTE: The former eventing world number one and British Olympic team member William Fox-Pitt remains in hospital after falling at the World Young Horse Championships in France.
The latest news from the hospital came on Monday (October 26): "William has made progress over the weekend; today he is conscious, breathing on his own and communicating with his family and doctors, however he is still very ill...Further progress is going to take time..."
His horse, Reinstated, was uninjured in the incident but Fox-Pitt (pictured left) was treated for over an hour at the scene before being heavily sedated in hospital.
[Our thanks to Libby Law for use of her photo of Tim Price and Wesko at Pau.]