Saturday, 7 August 2010

Nicholson Holding All The Aces For NZ WEG2010 Team

Nicholson - All Smiles
The New Zealand Eventing Team is one that never seems to have a smooth ride, generally. The much loved, but ever controversial Andrew Nicholson however is currently sat at the card table holding all the aces. With 4 horses listed on the selectors clipboard, 3 of which have nothing further to prove for a pass for the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, he can happily concentrate on his day job with a big smile on his face.  You have to admire this guy, he speaks his mind and let's his results do all the talking. I doubt there's any other rider that can match the sheer number of class horses he currently has stabled in Marlborough.

There is still one trophy missing from Nicholson's mantle piece that he'd dearly love though, The Badminton Trophy. He's been around the Badminton deer park more than anyone, 29 times (I bet the Duke of Beaufort hasn't even been round the park that often), yet the title still eludes him. 

The rest of the Kiwi team hopefuls however are still practicing their please and thank-you's, and the fact that three of the hopefuls are entered at Highclere Horse Trials at the end of the month, it looks like the NZ selectors are taking a leaf out of the Aussie's book and leaving the decision until the last minute with their announcement going out the day after Highclere.

Mark Todd
Mark Todd has Grass Valley entered at Highclere, and this man can spin silk out of pig skin. This horse was turned down by another 4 star rider for being 'way too tricky to get round a CCI****', and along comes Toddy and slots the horse into the top 20 at Badminton, marred only by an over warmed up Dressage. 

Joe Meyer is certainly a man on mission, he has been pouring money into google ads in an attempt to get more horses and owners, ammunition for London 2012 no doubt. He has both his WEG2010 shortlisted horses entered at Highclere (Snip & Clifton Lush). For me Clifton Lush would be the better horse despite a fall at Badminton, he's finished in the money in 3 & 4 star 3-day's in recent years.

I have to confess I don't really know much about Jonathan Paget or Clifton Promise, but purely on paper I'd say he still has a bit to prove in the 3-day format as any form he has in 3-day-events down under will not be as useful as northern hemisphere form is. I'll shall make a point of watching this horse at Highclere though.

Caroline Powell is the last rider with any serious form, and definitely the sort of solid 4 star performer you really want to have on a championship team. Her selected horse, Mac MacDonald, does have top ten results at 3 star and ran well at Badminton in 2008 ahead of plenty of top class horses. This horse is currently entered at Burghey.

The remaining two riders on the short list are Annabel Wigley with Black Drum, who I think does better at 1-day's rather than 3-day's. This leaves Clarke Johnstone with Orient Express, both of whom have their form rooted in the southern hemisphere.

Missing from the list is Dan Jocelyn, previous Olympic rider, who's two 4 star horses just haven't really shone in recent years. He does however have three or four promising horses just coming through to advanced now, so London 2012 is still hopefully a realistic goal.

I have a lot of respect for these Kiwi riders, being based in the UK means they get to run in the best of training grounds, but have to work a lot harder to secure top class horses. I recon one of these guys will come home from Kentucky with a medal though.

Keep an eye out for my Highclere round up at the end of the month as it's bound to have an NZ & Aussie selection update and I have a few video interviews lined up.

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