Wow, there was excitement right down to the wire here today at Burghley. The show-jumping course, which featured lots of related distances, was really sorting out most of the morning lot, with only Matthew Wright and Ben Hobday (on his Turbocob Mulry’s Error) going clear from those lower down the order, then a few later Georgie Spence and Matthew Heath managing clears too.
Marilyn Little, a former GP showjumper, salvaged some pride for the Americans, with a clear for eventual 20th place. If it was not for the very contentious 21 penalties she was given for breaking a frangible pin at the corner after the bounce, this would have been a top 10 finish.
Once we got into the top twenty, clears came slightly more frequently, Louisa Lockwood and Tom Crisp both managing to stay faultless to move themselves up the order, and Jonelle Price securing her place in the top 10, in eventual 9th place. Fences down as always proved expensive, Oliver Townend and Armada’s agonising four down costing him five places in the end. Briarland’s Matilda was still thinking of the cross-country, resulting in a little argumentativeness with Izzy Taylor, and two down.
Bill Levett, Gemma Tattersall and William Fox-Pitt all pulled off superb clears to cement their positions in 6th, 5th and 4th, William best of the British riders as he so often is, and then Sam Griffith’s Happy Times, bidding to give his rider the 2nd leg of the Grand Slam after Sam’s win at Badminton on Paulank Brockagh, had two down, ruining his hopes, but still good enough for eventual 3rd place.
You could have heard a pin drop throughout Jock Paget’s immaculate clear round on Clifton Promise, which threw down the gauntlet for the overnight leader Andrew Nicholson, on Avebury, back to back winner of the last two years here.
Avebury is not always the most reliable showjumper, and had 24 penalties at Lexington in April, so although he had two fences in hand here, nothing was at all certain at this point! Andrew presented him at every single fence in a beautiful steady balance, giving him loads of time to come off the floor as best as he possibly could, sacrificing a few time penalties (which he could well afford to do) rather than risking rails down and disaster. It was an impeccable piece of riding, not an inch out of place, and well deserved the clear round that clinched them their personal Burghley Triple Crown, an absolutely unprecedented three consecutive wins here, 2012, 2013 and 2014.
Ginny Holgate/Leng’s Priceless is the only previous double winner, in 1983 and 1985, and she also won the year in between, on Night Cap II, so it has been won three times running by the same rider, but not on the same horse!
At the Press Conference afterwards, Andrew said he is a bit light on horses at the very top level and has a few of his top horses injured at the moment and only likely to come back in the middle of next year, so he is not sure whether Avebury will go to Lexington to try for the next leg of the Grand Slam, and he will make decisions early next year, depending on how the horses all feel.
Andrew said he doesn’t worry about the horse rubbing poles a little in front, he does that but rarely has them down, it’s when he hits oxers behind that he has them down.
How much does this win mean to him? “An awful lot, just like it sounded.”
Does he think three consecutive wins will ever be repeated? Is Avebury a freak?
Andrew Nicholson “Anything can be repeated. He’s not a freak, he’s just one of those horses who has always been in the right place at the right time. He had some run outs but in between the run outs he was winning competitions.”
How did he come to breed Avebury?
“You get 50% off your rates if your place is a stud. I was eventing his sire Jumbo, I had Avebury’s dam who I’d evented a bit but couldn’t sell because she had a veterinary problem. He (Avebury) saved me £5,000 straight away.” This got an appreciative ripple of laughter in the Press Centre. [A stud apparently gets a 50% discount on the Rates, and he needed at least 1 in-foal mare on the premises!] Avebury’s breeding pedigree is HERE if anyone wants a look.
Andrew went on: “Avebury was sold when he was 5 years old, we needed the money. Nicola rode him in showjumping for a few years, he came back, Wiggy rode him for a year, then I stole him back and sold him to Rosemary. And you know the rest.”
The rest is an unbelievable story, an absolutely unprecedented success, a glittering career for this Irish Draught x TB son of the legendary Jumbo. This third win here takes Avebury’s BE points tally to over 2,000, a feat few horses manage. I very much doubt the treble will ever be done again, and I feel absolutely privileged to have witnessed it. Bravo Andrew and Avebury, and, Thank You.