It’s taken over 25 years and 37 completions, but finally Andrew Nicholson has his hands on the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials trophy.
The showjumping finale proved utterly thrilling as silence fell across the crowd. The majority of the top ten had gone clear coming to the final three although the time was proving tight so the pressure was on.
Only 0.8 penalties separated Andrew, Michael and Ingrid so there wasn’t room for any of them to make a mistake. Andrew & Nereo entered first and the crowd fell silent. Just as Andrew was about to start his round over Kelvin Bywater’s square track the commentator announced Andrew’s name so he turned another circle obviously seeking as few distractions as possible. There were a few gentle rubs of poles, as they made their way round the track but they all stayed put. Andrew was going slowly though, and crossed the finish with a single time penalty, even so the crowd erupted with applause for an obvious crowd favourite. There was plenty of breathing room between him and Tim, so a round at his speed was a tactical choice knowing he left no real breathing space for Michael of Ingrid, they could have at most one time penalty themselves.
Michael and La Biosthetique Sam entered the arena in their normal calm demeanour. They were jumping beautifully, albeit giving the fences minimal breathing space. Fence 6 the water tray received the lightest of brushes and fell, Andrew was in to second and the crowd knew it. Michael and Sam’s concentration never wavered from their job, despite the noise from the crowd, and they continued on to add no further penalties to their score. They could no longer win but they were still guaranteed a top 3 finish.
Ingrid entered the main arena to be greeted by a positively electric atmosphere. A pin dropping could be heard as she started her round and was looking in fantastic form as she turned back to the water tray at 6 when Horseware Hale Bob OLD just brushed the pole behind, it was over, and the crowd erupted in gasps and screams of delight for Andrew. Ingrid did well to keep their composure but they knocked another pole before meeting the treble on a bad distance and Hale Bob said no. He jumped it on second attempt but the damage was done and she slipped to 9th whilst Tim Price who only added a time penalty to his score on Xavier Faer rose to 3rd.
Andrew had finally done it on Deborah Sellar’s 17 year old gelding. The greatest cross country rider in the world won the title that had escaped him for so long and boy was he thrilled. At the press conference after the prize giving Andrew explained that feeling of winning is far different from winning Burghley as he has waited so long and so many times been so near. Previous years were hard but he keeps coming back and now it’s worked and it’s an unbelievable feeling. He also said he was actually in a way quite glad Nereo slipped coming into the last fence in the cross country, as that extra time penalty meant sitting in third he could put the pressure on Ingrid and Michael.
Andrew talked about having had Nereo since a 4yo and that he had always been a favourite. Nereo & Avebury infact were the main reasons he tried riding again after his neck injury. Andrew credited his whole team for the win including owner Deborah Sellar who he hoped would now be happy. Deborah was quick to answer “That was a bit of allright Andrew, thank you very much indeed!”
In the press conference Michael did say he was unhappy about the mistake, but it was his mistake not Sam’s. He also confirmed Sam will continue competing for now as he is still happy competing especially going cross country. 3rd placed Tim Price was thrilled to have such a great start to the season especially after last year when he had such bad luck.
Other notable prize winners included:
Best British rider – Ros Canter & Allstar B who produced a stunning clear round to finish 5th.
Imogen Murray & Ivar Gooden finishing 21st with a double clear and winning the best under 25 prize
Joseph Murphy & Sportsfield Othello best climb after dressage rising from 75th to 13th!
Yoshiaki Oiwa & The Duke Of Cavan finishing 8th
Full results can be found on the Badminton website