8 May 2017

Nicholson finally takes Badminton

10:04 am on 8 May 2017

Veteran New Zealand equestrian Andrew Nicholson has finally won the Badminton Horse Trials in his 36th attempt following a thrilling finale.

Andrew Nicholson (NZL) rides Nereo during the Cross Country phase at the 2017 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.

Andrew Nicholson rides Nereo during the Cross Country phase at the 2017 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials. Photo: Photosport

It was a fairy-tale finish with a dramatic ending this morning which saw four New Zealand combinations in the top six.

Nicholson, with his mount Nereo, has now won what many call the Wimbledon of eventing, and the highest goal in the sport outside of the Olympic Games.

He was a record-holder at Badminton as the rider with the most completions having never been the victor, that was until today in his 37th completion.

It is a remarkable comeback, after Nicholson suffered what could have been a career-ending neck injury in 2015.

Also on the podium with him today was Tim Price and Xavier Faer in third with 49.2 penalty points, Sir Mark Todd and NZB Campino in fourth on 50.4, and Todd was also sixth with Leonidas II on 58.1.

Nicholson was 12th with Qwanza on 67.9, who also won the prize as best mare.

The showjumping was a heart-stopper, as the final riders were put through their paces, rails fell and positions changed, but the New Zealanders performed well.

Andrew Nicholson, (NZL) with Nereo during the First Horse Inspection at the 2017 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials. Wednesday 3 May.

Andrew Nicholson, with Nereo during the First Horse Inspection at Badminton. Photo: Photosport

Nicholson and Nereo - a horse not known for his showjumping prowess - picked up a single time fault in a very carefully ridden round, to finish on 41.4 penalty points and put all the pressure in the world on the two German superstars - defending Badminton champ Michael Jung and Ingrid Klimke.

Jung added four faults to finish in second place on 44 penalty points, and Klimke an uncharacteristic 21 to drop well out of contention as Nicholson claimed his maiden Badminton title.

"They're not machines," said Nicholson, as he waited on tenterhooks for the final riders to complete their rounds, "but he showed he (Nereo) can do it . . . at 17 years old."

"It is an unbelievable feeling," said Nicholson. "To have waited so long, to be so near a few times . . . it is pretty hard but you just have to get over it and move on. I am lucky to be in a position to have that dream and come and put it in place."

Third-placed Price is predicting a good season ahead for him and his team.

"Xavier Faer has been a bit spooky and quirky on the way through and the majority of time I have had him, his quirks have got in the way," he said.

Their preparation had been good for badminton and Price expected him to go well.

"I am very relieved to start the year with a result like this. I feel a bit of a load has been lifted off me. Badminton is the most amazing place to come to. It is a privilege to be here. The way he has gone for me this time has set me up for the rest of the season I believe. There are good things to come and I am very excited about this horse."

Todd too was "chuffed" with the efforts of both his horses who were clear and inside time in the showjumping.

"They both came out today and have done very well," he said. "I am delighted. There is nothing quite like Badminton. I would have liked to be a bit nearer the front, but I can't complain with two horses in the top 10. We are up against some of the best in the world here and if you can be up there with them, it is amazing."

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