Jock Paget kept an admirably cool head in the pressurised last few minutes of the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials, final leg of the HSBC FEI Classics™, and became the fifth New Zealander to lift the top prize here at this much-respected British CCI4*.
Kiwi riders have won 12 of the last 26 Burghleys, but it’s 14 years ago that a rider captured both Badminton and Burghley in the same season on the same horse (Great Britain’s Ginny Leng on Master Craftsman).
Paget’s dual-winning mount, Frances Stead and Russell Hall’s handsome New Zealand Thoroughbred Clifton Promise, an ex-racehorse, seemed to grow in confidence around Richard Jeffery’s Jumping track. He only hit the last fence, by which time the Land Rover Trophy, and third place in the HSBC FEI Classics™ series, was in the bag. “I was nervous because I wanted to win, but I knew I had two rails in hand and I had a lot of confidence in how Promise was jumping in the warm-up,” explained Paget. “I have altered a few little things with him this year, since my training with [European Champion] Michael Jung, and now give him a little more room in front of fences. “It’s really only just sinking in that I’ve won Badminton, let alone Burghley, but I know that it’s a very special achievement.”
Clifton Lush, the horse on which Paget was lying second after Cross Country, was unfortunately withdrawn overnight due to a bruised fetlock, but he should be back in action in time for Paget to contest the Rolex Grand Slam of Eventing (winning Badminton, Burghley and Kentucky in succession) next spring.
One of Paget’s chief mentors, Andrew Nicholson, was second, third and eighth - another record - in a Kiwi whitewash. “I brought three horses and I still can’t beat him,” the 52-year-old Nicholson joked about his former protégé. “When Jock first came to me, in 2009, he may have looked like a monkey up a pole, but I still thought he had a lot of natural talent. What was most important was that he wanted to learn; he was always running around watching the top riders, like William Fox-Pitt and Pippa Funnell, and that’s how you become successful yourself, by looking and learning.”
No horse has ever won back-to-back Burghleys, but Andrew came very close to achieving that accolade with second place on the 2012 winner, Avebury (he was also first and second with Mr Smiffy in 2000 and 2001).
He also finished third on his 2012 Pau winner Nereo and eighth on Calico Joe and rounded off an extremely lucrative payday by scooping the $150,000 HSBC FEI Classics™ title for the first time. He has also extended his lead in the $50,000 HSBC Rankings, which he has led all year. “It does feel like a great achievement to have been so consistent,” he said. “That’s really what staying at the top is all about.”
Although nine of the 19 horses jumping in the morning session went clear, there were none from the 24 in the afternoon. Nicholson had a fence down apiece on Avebury and Nereo and, with the latter horse, overtook William Fox-Pitt (GBR) and Parklane Hawk after they hit the second and third elements of the treble at fence 10.
“I think he was still in too much of a forward gear after Cross Country,” said Fox-Pitt, who finished second in the HSBC FEI Classics™. “But Jock’s achievement is fantastic and I hope he enjoys the moment. This has been a brilliant competition; it was a proper four-star and the Cross Country and the optimum time had exactly the right influence.”
Ingrid Klimke’s (GER) FRH Butts Abraxxas does not have the best of Jumping records, but he went clear on his last CIC3* run and Klimke said she had decided not to practise in between. The strategy seemed to work well, as they only hit the third fence to rise two places to fifth.
Jonelle Richards, sixth on The Deputy with 12 penalties, and Sir Mark Todd, seventh with four faults on the inexperienced Oloa, a horse the double Olympic gold medallist has mooted as a future championship ride, completed the New Zealand domination. European team silver medallist Ludwig Svennerstal (SWE) enjoyed his best CCI4* result so far when finishing ninth on King Bob and Kristina Cook (GBR) was 10th on Do Novo News.
This is HSBC’s last year of sponsoring the Classics, after six highly successful years when the series has captured riders’ imaginations and led to sporting tussles of the highest calibre, most famously between Andrew Nicholson and William Fox-Pitt. “It’s definitely raised the profile of the four-star events,” commented Nicholson, who is the only rider ever to have won the HSBC FEI Classics™ with tree 4-star victories (Pau, Kentucky and Luhmühlen). “It has made me travel to Kentucky and spend time working out what horses to take to Pau and Luhmühlen.”
Catrin Norinder, Director of Eventing at the FEI, said: “It’s been a super series for Eventing and a great success and we are so grateful to HSBC for all their interest and generosity.” She confirmed that the both the FEI Classics and the FEI Nations Cup™ Eventing, which has proved so popular, will continue and that plans are already in hand for reviewing both series and for seeking financial backing.
HSBC Training Bursary
The HSBC Training Bursary, worth $1,000 to the most successful CCI4* first-timer, was awarded to Alex Postolowsky (GBR) who finished 36th with a clear Cross Country round at her first Burghley on Paul Newbert’s Islanmore Ginger, an Irish-bred 15-year-old chestnut gelding by Giorgione.
Postolowsky, 28, is based near Burghley in Lincolnshire and earned plenty of local support. “I’ve grown up with this event, competing in the Pony Club showjumping, in the young horse classes, and as a spectator. It still hasn’t sunk in that I’ve actually competed here; it seemed an untouchable dream,” she said. “I have J-P Sheffield [fellow rider] to thank for all this. I thought I wasn’t ready, but he said ‘if you don’t get a move on, you’ll be 62 before you ride at Burghley!’. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, yet I only decided to go for it a month ago.” The pair completed Boekelo CCI3* last year.
About the winner - Jonathan Paget (NZL)
Jonathan Paget (NZL) - known in the sport as Jock - has made a remarkable rise to stardom in Eventing.
He only started riding at the age of 18 when he was an apprentice bricklayer in Sydney, where his family then lived, and tried his hand at the rodeo. He began training with Kevin McNab (AUS) in Queensland and progressed from never having jumped a fence to competing at CCI3* level in two years.
In 2007, Paget returned to New Zealand and started riding Frances Stead’s Clifton horses. His first CCI4* was Kentucky in 2010, after which he was selected for the Kiwi squad for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™, where he was seventh individually on Clifton Promise.
Paget has been based in Dunsfold, in the south of England, working closely with senior New Zealand riders Mark Todd and Andrew Nicholson, and Dressage trainer Andrew Gould, since February 2011. He has been fifth at Burghley twice, in 2011 and 2012 on Clifton Lush, and winner of the British Open Championships this year. With Clifton Lush, he was part of the bronze medal New Zealand squad at the London 2012 Olympic Games , finishing 10th. The pair was later second at Pau and, in May, they won Badminton.
1 Jock Paget/Clifton Promise (NZL) 36.7 + 0.4 + 4 = 41.1
2 Andrew Nicholson/Avebury (NZL) 42.3 + 0 + 4 = 46.3
3 Andrew Nicholson/Nereo (NZL) 41.3 + 2 + 4 = 47.3
4 William Fox-Pitt/Parklane Hawk (GBR) 41.5 + 0.8 + 8 = 50.3
5 Ingrid Klimke/FRH Butts Abraxxas (GER) 39.0 + 9.2 + 4 = 52.2
6 Jonelle Richards/The Deputy (NZL) 46.2 + 1.2 + 12 = 59.4
7 Mark Todd/Oloa (NZL) 48.3 + 7.2 + 4 = 59.5
8 Andrew Nicholson/Calico Joe (GBR) 48.3 + 0 + 12 = 60.3
9 Ludwig Svennerstal/King Bob (SWE) 46.7 + 10 + 4 = 60.7
10 Kristina Cook/De Novo News (GBR) 43.2 + 15.2 + 4 = 62.4
Full results on: www.burghley-horse.co.uk
HSBC FEI Classics™ final leaderboard
1 Andrew Nicholson (NZL) 67 points, $150,000
2 William Fox-Pitt (GBR) 44, $75,000
3 Jonathan Paget (NZL) 42, $50,000
4 Michael Jung (GER) 22, $33,000
5 Craig Barrett (AUS) 15, $25,000
6 Zara Phillips (GBR) 12
7 Natalie Blundell (AUS) 12
8 Murray Lamperd (AUS) 10
9 Sandra Auffarth (GER) 8
10 Buck Davidson (USA) 8