As ever it was a thrilling 3* competition at beautiful Barbury Castle. The weather was changeable, some combinations having to go XC in the worst of the driving rain, and problems were spread around the course. There was quite a high number of withdrawals, and none could have been more frustrating that Nana Dalton’s. She was apparently forced to go home after the whole lorry caught a tummy bug from her son, when well placed with a 43.5 dressage.
Lissa Green was one of the early ones to secure a good clear, albeit with 20.8 time penalties. Craig Nicholai, a definite crowd favourite after his ‘I love my pony’ relieved hugathon at Badminton, scorched round for 1.2 time penalties in spite of taking one long route, proving that the time was definitely achievable.
Georgie Spence easily sat Wii Limbo’s huge leap into the water, which as ever caused some spooky moments, perhaps because of the blue dye they use, and led for quite a while on 56.4.
Andrew Nicholson had a great round for just 2 time penalties on the first of his 4 rides, Teseo, but his next ride, Cillnabradden Evo, showed his starting box shenanigans were a harbinger of things to come, depositing Mr Stickability and causing a hold on course when he went off for a naughty solitary jolly.
Oliver Townend had a good round on Fenyas Elegance, hopefully catching the selectors’ eyes. Our spies at Barbury said that he did the bare minimum of a dressage warm up, a scant 5 minutes, and it looks as thought this very low-pressure approach is working on this sensitive but very talented mare.
It was a long time until someone managed to get inside the time, and Jonelle Price and her ever-classy Classic Moet were the first to manage it, by 1 second, to secure 2nd place at that point, and eventual 12th.
Padraig McCarthy had a great round, steering his girlfriend Lucy Wiegersma’s Simon Porloe (??) into the lead with just 0.8 time penalties, but his reign was brief, with Andrew Nicholson and Nereo going inside the time to finish on their dressage score of 38.3, and proving almost unbeatable.
Becky Woolven and Charlton Down Riverdance were the 3rd combination to go inside the time, but 16 SJ penalties held them down the order.
Paul Tapner and Indian Mill had a very fast and secure-looking round, well inside the time and into 3rd place at that point, and eventual 9th.
Oliver Townend, having coaxed a clear SJ round from Armada with just 3 time penalties, was left rueing a low-flying moment when they broke the frangible pin at the quarry, to add 11 penalties. They added only 2 time penalties XC to their score, so these 11 were expensive, dropping them out of the top 10 and into 21st.
Nicola Wilson’s round with the keen Beltane Queen will have made the British Selectors very happy, for eventual 4th, and Pascal Leroy with Minos de Petra, and Nicolas Astier, who had only 2.8 time, for 7th overall, will have delighted the French Selectors.
Laura Collett and Grand Manoeuvre had a great round with just 2 time pens for 6th, to keep her selection hopes high, and win the HTSG prize.
A run out at the corner for Louise Harwood and the usually very consistent Whitson was expensive, dropping them well down the order from 7th place overnight.
Mark Todd piloted the very talented Leonidas II to another beautiful double clear, finishing on his dressage score for eventual third place, behind Nereo at that stage.
Alex Hua Tian opted for a slow XC round on his immensely promising 3* first timer Don Geniro, in 3rd overnight, their clear with 18 time penalties taking them down to 16th. Alex has brought this horse all the way up the grades and his patience with this one will surely be rewarded.
The last to go, defending his Barbury Triple Crown, was Avebury, and he did not disappoint. Apparently Andrew Nicholson removed his glasses in the start box (eagle-eyed fans might remember him removing his glasses while galloping XC at Rolex one year, as they were misting up in the rain!), as he doesn’t even need to ‘see’ a stride!
They both looked totally comfortable and made the course look easy, cruising round to finish a comfortable 12 seconds under the time, very worthy champions again. A huge achievement for Team Nicholson, what a horse!
A Quadruple Crown, has that ever been done anywhere before? And, does this mean that a 4th Burghley win could be on the cards?!