Nicholson getting fit under the watchful eyes of AP McCoy (photo: Channel 4 Racing)It will be the sixth year the Cheltenham Festival has run its charity race - the St Patrick's Derby that closes the card on the Festival's Thursday - March 12 this year. Lockeridge based event rider, Andrew Nicholson will be one of the selected entrants raising money for the Injured Jockeys Fund (IJF).
It is a flat race for amateur riders who can raise the £5,000 in sponsorship. And their horses must have run twice under rules.
Nicholson will be riding the Nigel Twiston-Davies trained Golden Jubilee - a six year-old that has won five times on the flat. Nicholson has been getting his weight down and training hard - including a session under the eagle eye of champion jump jockey AP McCoy at the IJF headquarters at Lambourn.
A former stalwart of the New Zealand eventing team, Andrew Nicholson, told Cotswold Life: “I will be as competitive as I can be but it’s the horse that has to run the mile and a half and lug me up the hill. As long as I do my job right and not make a fool of myself I will be happy and if I have got a horse that can really gallop who knows?"
Phil Clark being interviewed by a Racing UK colleagueHe will face some seasoned competition. The competitors include Clifford Baker who is head lad at Paul Nicholls' yard and Phil Clark the long-standing cameraman for the Racing UK television service and who has probably watched more races more closely than many of the other riders.
The Injured Jockeys Fund was established in 1964 by Lord Oaksey, after the devastating accidents to jockeys Tim Brookshaw and Paddy Farrell. The fund supports jockeys with career ending injuries and does amazing rehabilitation work - notably at its Lambourn headquarters - for many other riders injured in racing and other equestrian sports.
The choice of the IJT to benefit from this year's race is particularly significant as it was on the Thursday of the 2013 Festival that jockey J T McNamara had a terrible fall that left him paralysed.
Also taking part is Olive Murphy, a senior cabin crew member with Aer Lingus. She held an amateur licence in Ireland from 1993 to 1996 and is a lifelong friend of McNamara.
The youngest of this year's twelve riders is Thomas Williams - a student at Loughborough University and a pupil assistant trainer with Violet Jordan.
Andrew Nicholson will not be asking you to back him to win the race, but he does want you to sponsor him at his Just Giving site.
Wiltshire police have issued a photograph of a man they want to interview following the serious assault as a meet of the Tedworth Hunt was ending at about 4.00 pm on January 24 in Everleigh.
The main victim was the 39 year-old joint master of the hunt, Mike Lane. During the assault he was kicked several times in the head. He lost consciousness, suffered a facial injury and needed hospital treatment.
Another man was assaulted with a flail like bar on the end of a rope.
Fortunately no one sustained any serious injury during this assault.
It is assumed that the attack was made by a hunt saboteur - a group of protesters had been following riders and hounds during their drag hunt.
Detectives working on the case want to speak to the hooded man in the photo.
And officers are keen to hear too from anyone who has information regarding this incident.
Anyone who recognises the man in the photo or who has any relevant information should contact PC Randle of the Rural Crime Team on 101. Alternatively call Crimestoppers 0800 555 111 where details may be left anonymously.
Lizzie Brown with DaffyThe new eventing season in Britain begins in a few weeks time, and New Zealander Lizzie Brown is in the midst of some hectic preparations. She is now in the official New Zealand High Performance Eventing Accelerator Squad - and had her first day's training with them on Thursday (February 5.)
Last September Lizzie moved from stables at Milton Lilbourne, near Pewsey to the Wickdown Stables up on the Marlborough Downs - right at the heart of the Temple Farm Estate. She has nine horses and the help of working pupil Rupert Betting - who has his own eventing horse there too: "We help each other - it's a two-way thing." A new head groom joins them very soon.
Even on a wintry afternoon with snow still lying on roofs and on untrodden paths and a piercing wind blowing, it is a wonderful place to be. As you drive up to the stables your attention is caught along the way by four soaring buzzards, a red kite and a couple of hunting kestrels.
Apart from eleven boxes, Lizzie has an indoor and outdoor school, a grass dressage arena, cross country and show jumps and is within easy hacking distance of some of the county's best gallops.
Lizzie & Frank winning at Boekelo (2013) (photo copyright Libby Law Photography - NZ)Originally from Hamilton, New Zealand, after successful years eventing on home courses (in 2009-2010 she was the leading event rider in New Zealand), Lizzie came to England in 2011. In choosing Wiltshire she was following in the footsteps of fellow Kiwi eventing stars Sir Mark Todd (now at Badgerstown), Andrew Nicholson (Lockeridge), Jonelle and Tim Price (Mildenhall.)
Lizzie had a break-through year in 2013 when she and her then 12 year-old chestnut gelding Henton Attorney General (known as Frank) won the CCI three star crown at Boekolo in Holland. And that was just two months after the pair had won the CCI two star class at the Blair Castle international.
Lizzie told Marlborough News Online about Frank: "He's a great horse - I was lucky to get him at that stage in my career." She favours New Zealand bred horses: "They're tough and sturdy - lovely horses to ride - after all I grew up with them."
Another New Zealand import is Princeton II - known as OJ - a nine year-old brown gelding that Lizzie owns: "He's really shaping up - and he'll step up this year. He should be back-up behind Frank in the run-up to the Olympics." (See photo below.)
Lizzie is realistic about being selected for the New Zealand team: "It's a lot to do with how this year goes. You just have to work hard. The team picks itself because of riders being on form and horses that are fit." Beyond the 2016 Rio Olympics, there are the next World Equestrian Games in 2018 at Bromont in Canada.
One of Lizzie's younger horses is six year-old Cinque Terre - known as Daffy and seen above with Lizzie - a 16-hands brown mare who began eventing last season. She's still a novice and aiming for one star in the coming season: "She has springs in her feet, is a joy to ride and is the true definition of a pocket rocket! She is an exciting prospect for 2015."
Being a New Zealander on the British eventing circuit has its difficulties. She has to get the agreement of both the New Zealand and British eventing authorities before she can enter a British competition. And then, with the increasing popularity of the sport, for many events competitors face a ballot for places in each class: "It's a bit of a pain to do all the work and then not get into an event."
It is just as well that back in 2008 Lizzie began studying full-time at Waikato University and has a bachelor degree in business management. Eventing is an expensive business and managing the costs is essential.
Jonny Royale ready for some dressage workShe estimates it costs about £10,000 a year for each horse. But that is reduced by sponsors who provide feed, tack, safety gear and clothing. Lizzie is very grateful to her sponsors and in addition is always looking for people to buy shares in her horses.
Shares are still available for one of Lizzie's younger horses: Jonny Royale. A steel grey gelding, Jonny is a six year-old New Zealand thoroughbred - by all accounts a lovely mover and an intelligent horse.
The future looks bright with Jonny and Daffy and three even younger horses that have just arrived at the stables.
Many thanks to Libby Law for the use of her two action photographs. Libby's worldwide photographic coverage focuses on New Zealand's eventers. [Click on photos to enlarge them.]
|Lizzie and Princeton: NZ high performance training under team showjumping coach Luis Alverez Cervera (photo copyright Libby Law Photography - NZ)
David Grant with Nikki NewmanNikki Newman, who lives in Marlborough, did not even realise she had been nominated until she got the email telling her she had been judged as runner up for Haddon Training British Grooms Award. Nikki is a freelance groom and was nominated in secret by the employers she works for.
The Marlborough based company Haddon Training were sponsoring the awards for the first time and were delighted by the number of nominations they received. The awards have not been run for the past six years due to the lack of a sponsor.
Haddon Training provide work-based training and apprenticeships - especially got the equestrian industry. They are an OFSTED 'outstanding provider'.
The awards are open to grooms working in all parts of the equestrian industry. They were presented by Haddon Training’s chief operating officer David Grant at the annual British Breeders awards dinner.
The overall winner was Caroline Heard who works for a hunting yard in winter and in summer as a showing groom and producer.
|David Grant with Caroline Heard
||David Grant with Jessica Errington
Jessica Errington won the award for grooms who were part of the British team at the 2014 Alltech World Equestrian Games in France.
She was looking after British eventing team member Harry Meade’s mount Wild Lone who collapsed and died immediately after completing a clear round in the cross country. Meade said the tricky conditions on the course were not the cause of Wild Lone’s death.
Nominating Jessica, Meade said she had dedicated her life to looking after Wild Lone and had handled an extremely difficult situation with huge dignity. Wild Lone was a thirteen year-old gelding and the World Games were his sixth four star eventing competition.
As a freelance groom Nikki Newman shows great versatility in handling a point-to-pointer one day, an eventer on another day, a dressage horse the next day and a mountain and moorland show pony after that. The nomination pointed out that she gave each kind of horse attention and care of the highest standard.
Commenting on her award, Nikki said: “It’s not that I have done anything different to any other groom in the country. Everyone is at home in the rain, dealing with muddy fields and the cold weather, it doesn’t matter if you are an apprentice or a head groom, everyone is doing the job. But it’s great that grooms in general are being recognised.”