caption: New Zealand's Andrew Nicholson may be favored to win the CCI 4* at Pau in France this weekend, but his Kiwi team mate Mark Todd is the poster boy for all the event's publicity. Todd is competing at Pau for the first time since 1996. New Zealand rules in eventing!
@FranJurga writes: Diana Dobson has filled me in on Kiwi eventer Andrew Nicholson's bid for a year to truly remember as the international eventing season winds up this weekend in France. It seems like Andrew has two good chances to win, on two great horses. Not suprisingly, he has a thing or two to say about which one he thinks will be on top!
It’s the grand finale of the international eventing season this weekend, but also the start of the new HSBC FEI Classics series, and the Kiwi riders plan to make a big impact on both.
The in-form Andrew Nicholson spearheads a strong New Zealand contingent in the last CCI4* event of the northern hemisphere season at Les Etoiles des Pau in France.
It’s one of only six four-star events in the world and has attracted the big guns, including world champion and Olympic gold medallist Michael Jung (GER) and this year’s HSBC FEI Classics winner William Fox-Pitt (GBR), to whom Nicholson was second by just a smidgen.
But Nicholson, who was also second at Pau last year, has been in superb form recently, winning four big events in the past four months – the four-star Burghley International Horse Trials, and the three-star Boekelo, Blenheim and Barbary Castle events.
He’s also on the cusp of finishing the season at the top of the HSBC World Rankings which would bring a $US50,000 bonus for him.
Nicholson has both Mr Cruise Control and Nereo entered at Pau, and he’s picking his bronze medal-winning World Championship and Olympic mount Nereo to finish at the front of the field – just ahead of Mr Cruise Control.
“Nereo is my best bet,” said Nicholson, who was a key part of New Zealand’s Olympic bronze medal-winning team at London in August.
However, it is Nereo’s first start at Pau, and Mr Cruise Control was second in the event last year.
Also competing at Pau will be Jonathan Paget on Clifton Promise, Caroline Powell aboard Onwards and Upwards and Mark Todd on Major Milestone.
“Promise has come back after the Olympics looking (like) a million dollars and is keen to run again,” says Kiwi high performance coach Erik Duvander.
He says Powell’s Onwards and Upwards is a young horse being tested at four-star level for the first time.
“(Todd's) Major Milestone is so strong in the cross country and showjumping phases, but the dressage just makes it difficult for him,” Duvander continued.
It’s a star-studded start list at Pau, with the organizers describing it as “a dream”; the list features members of the gold, silver and bronze medal-winning teams from the London Olympics.
Pau has attracted more than 60 entries from 17 nations – many of whom are chasing those all important early points in the Classics series, which is considered the "grand slam" of eventing.
The Classics' other five events are the Australian International Three Day Event in Adelaide in November, the USA's Rolex Kentucky Three Day event in April, Britain's Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials in May, Luhmuhlen in Germany in June and finally the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials back in Great Britain in September.
The Classics make the eventing world go round--or at least keep the riders' passports warm.
Thanks as always to Diana Dobson, media liaison for the New Zealand Equestrian Team, for her help with this article.
This news item was produced for Fran Jurga's Equestrian Sport News stream using the "ScoopIt" news-sharing mini-blog app.
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