Kiwi Andrew Nicholson, the world’s number one eventer, is primed and ready to deliver at the first of the season’s four star events, the Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event.
Nicholson, who won the event in 2013 aboard Quimbo (owned by Deborah Sellar) and was also third with his own Calico Joe has chosen to start Avebury (owned by Mark and Rosemary Barlow and Nicholson) at Kentucky, as part of a record-breaking field.
Sir Mark Todd, the only other New Zealander competing at Kentucky, will ride Oloa (owned by Di Brunsden, Peter Cattrell and Pip McCarroll).
Kentucky, which runs from April 24-27, is the only four star eventing competition in the Western Hemisphere and has attracted many of the world’s best, including two-time winner William Fox-Pitt (Great Britain) and Buck Davidson Junior (United States), who are ranked two and three on the FEI ranking.
But much of the attention will be on Nicholson, who could be in line for the $US350,000 Rolex Grand Slam of eventing prize for the rider who wins Kentucky, the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton and Land Rover Burghley events in succession.
Nicholson saves 14-year-old Avebury “for the top ones”.
“He has been going well and is a very consistent and reliable horse,” says Nicholson, who adores competing at Kentucky.
“I like it a lot and I think the horses enjoy it there too. It is proper old turf on the cross country – like Badminton and Burghley are too. It’s never the same to ride on turf that has been ploughed up and put back into grass.”
Nicholson makes no secret of his desire to secure the grand slam.
“The plan is to win with Avebury and then follow that up with a win at Badminton with either Nereo or Quimbo! I would love to have my first win at Badminton.”
Missing from his string this year will be Mr Cruise Control, who is out with a sprained tendon.
“Every season is a big season, and you have to take things as they come along and make the most of your chances,” said Nicholson.
Equestrian Sports New Zealand high performance coach Erik Duvander is also picking Nicholson to win.
“He is going there to defend his title and Avebury is looking good to win. They are both in great shape and are well prepared for Kentucky,” said Duvander.
Todd is also tilting for the podium.
“Mark and Oloa are a relatively new combination who were only together three or four months before Burghley (in September 2013) where they finished seventh. Kentucky is similar terrain to Burghley so will suit both the Kiwi horses.”
Todd agrees, saying Oloa is coming into the event in good form, with a third at his last start.
Duvander says plenty of training over the winter by the New Zealand high performance squad has seen a “massive improvement” from many combinations.
“All our riders are well prepared for the season ahead, so we are looking strong for the world champs.”
Riders from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Great Britain, The Netherlands, New Zealand and the United States are all entered at Kentucky, and include an impressive list of Olympic veterans and former Kentucky champs. This year’s event is also a selection trial for the 2014 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games for many countries.
The Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event is considered one of the world's most prestigious equestrian competitions and features the world's best horses and riders vying for their share of $US250,000 in prize money.
The fact file
- The Rolex Kentucky Three Day Event is the only four star competition in the Western Hemisphere
- It runs April 24-27
- For more information head to www.rk3de.org
- The event is part of the $US350,000 Rolex Grand Slam of eventing prize for the rider who wins Kentucky, the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton and Land Rover Burghley events in succession
- The FEI Classics Series includes the six CCI4* events – Pau (FRA), Australian International 3DE (AUS), Kentucky (USA), Badminton (GBR), Luhmuhlen (GER) and Burghley (GBR).