Kiwis' Set Sights British Open

  The world’s leading three-day eventer, Andrew Nicholson, is chasing his third British Open Championship at Gatcombe Park this week.
      Nicholson won the event the last time it was held in 2011 aboard his Olympic bronze medal-winning mount Nereo, on whom he also won the top ranking event at Pau, in France, last year. 
He has a raft of horses entered in the 65 strong British Open field, including Nereo (owned by Libby Sellar), Avebury (owned by Mark and Rosemary Barlow and Nicholson) on whom he won the 2012 Burghley International Horse Trials, and Viscount George (owned by Robin and Nicola Salmon).
   Also lining up will be Badminton winner Jonathan Paget with Clifton Promise (owned by Frances Stead) and Clifton Lush (owned by Frances Stead and Lucy Allison), who will undoubtedly be keen to add to his trophy cabinet.
   Sir Mark Todd has Ravenstar (owned by Paul Quirk and Team Rutledge) while Craig Nicolai has his own Just Ironic entered.
   The event was cancelled last year, but in 2011 the Kiwis scooped the pool with Nicholson, winning aboard Nereo and finishing second with Avebury, Paget and Clifton Lush coming in for third, and Todd on Major Milestone fourth.
    Equestrian Sports New Zealand high performance director Sarah Harris says all of the Kiwi riders will be eyeing the title and seeking solid results as they head towards the next four star event at Burghley in early September. It is just Todd’s second start with Ravenstar and they’ll be keen to qualify for Burghley at the event.
   But there is an impressive field of top international riders for them all to bypass. Names to watch out for include all of the British Senior European Championship team members – Kristina Cook, William Fox-Pitt, and Pippa Funnell, the reigning 2011 British National Champion.
    Historically New Zealand has done will at the event, with Todd having won the Open four times, and Blyth Tait also featuring on the honours board.
   New Zealand is also well represented in the advanced section, with a handful also entered in the intermediate championship.
    The Festival of British Eventing runs from August 2 through to 4 and is expected to attract around 45,000 visitors. The Open dressage phase starts on Friday morning (UK time), followed by the showjumping and cross country on Saturday.
  For more information, head to www.gatcombe-horse.co.uk or contact Diana Dobson, ESNZ high performance media liaison, 021 222 0145.

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