AFTER a dramatic turn of events at the conclusion of Sunday’s CIC three-star cross country phase, Andrew Nicholson finally secured the top prize at the Barbury Horse Trials.
But the New Zealand star admits that he had no idea he was on his way to a sensational one-two finish as he completed his final run.
The Marlborough-based 50-year-old led for much of the day on Quimbo, with 49.8 penalties, and was last to go in the cross country on overnight leader after showjumping, Avebury.
But as he prepared to embark on what would be his title-clinching run, fellow Kiwi Jonathan Paget was unceremoniously dumped off his ride Clifton Lush at the Crocodile Water.
Then, after Nicholson had set off, his other closest competitor, fellow New Zealand veteran Mark Todd, missed the Olympic Torch fence and was also eliminated.
That left the Wiltshire rider to power home with 41.6 penalties, securing first on Avebury, and second place on Quimbo.
“I heard Mark had missed the fence but I didn’t think he was going quite quickly enough anyway,” said Nicholson.
“I thought Jonathan had gone inside the time because he’s a fast rider with a quick horse and it wasn’t until I finished and saw Jonathan covered in mud that I realised he’d fallen.
“With Avebury, you don’t dare alter your system because he is quite a cheeky little thing and it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t slow because if I had done, you don’t quite know what he would have done.
“He does it very fast and very quickly so if you shut off the speed, he could quite easily try and run out.
“I’ve messed up twice before, on Lord Killinghurst when I was trying to be clever with my 17 time penalties and I had a run out and then two years ago with Avebury. He had a big lead before the cross country and he ran out as well.
“I wasn’t going to make the same mistake again.”
Nicholson reckons Todd’s freak elimination at Barbury could mean trouble for other riders when they come up against a New Zealand team which will include both at the Olympics.
He added: “It’s a bit of a shame for the other countries that Toddy had a mishap because when he does that, he’s very very hungry when he comes back at the next competition.
“It’s like not feeding a lion for a month and then letting him at a baby deer. He’ll be very motivated.”
Devon’s Lucy Wiegersma was third behind Nicholson on Simon Porloe (50.2) but her trials were marred by an injury to second ride Woodfalls Inigo Jones earlier in the day.
The 13-year-old gelding, known as Scooby, retired after breaking down during cross country, and Wiegersma admitted that the retirement could put paid to her horse’s eventing career.
“It’s a bit of a bittersweet thing really and I was particularly sad for Scooby because he’s been playing second fiddle to Simon but he was ahead of him,” she said.
“I was thinking that this was Scooby’s day to shine but it wasn’t to be. I’ve had him since he was a foal.”