Equestrian: Nicholson cruises to victory at Gatcombe

Andrew Nicholson wins the Open Championship with Avebury. Picture by Kit Houghton

Avebury and Andrew Nicholson on the cross country course in the British Eventing Open Champioship at the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe Park. Photo: Barry Batchelor

Daisy Berkeley and Montserrat. Photo: Phil J Photography (8933941)

Princess Royal at her Gatcombe Park home in Gloucestershire the venue for the Festival of British Eventing. Photo: Barry Batchelor.

Zara Phillips on High Kingdom during the dressage of the British Eventing Open Championship at the Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe Park, Gloucestershire. Photo: Barry Batchelor.

First published in Sport Stroud News and Journal: Photograph of the Author by , Sports editor covering the Thornbury, Dursley and Yate areas

ANDREW Nicholson had his pedal to the metal as he cruised to his third victory in the British Eventing Open Championship CIC3* at Gatcombe on Sunday.

Marlborough-based Nicholson partnered Mark and Rosemary Barlow's Avebury, the grey who had carried him to victory in the CIC3* at Barbury exactly one month ago.

They finished just one second over the optimum time at The Festival of British Eventing, presented by the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA), adding 0.4 of a penalty to their dressage score of 38.1.

"He's a very economical jumper who doesn't waste any time over the fences. He felt very comfortable round here," said Nicholson, who had endured mixed fortunes at The Festival until that point.

"A visit to Gatcombe wouldn't be complete without going home with a few grass stains," joked the New Zealander, in reference to his tumble earlier in the day from his Smith & Williamson British Intermediate Championship ride, Urma BK.

Nicholson also finished seventh in the British Open with Deborah Sellar's Nereo, having opted for a slightly quieter trip across the country for 7.6 time penalties.

Francis Whittington was crowned British National Champion after finishing second aboard Catherine Witt's Easy Target on a score of 40.

Last to set out around Captain Mark Phillips' 24-fence British Eventing Open Championship course, Whittington, who had retained his dressage lead with a faultless showjumping clear, clocked up 4.4 time penalties.

"I am delighted with him, but I'm cross with myself for wasting time in a couple of places," he said.

"I lost half a second when I made a poor decision at the BETA Lane Crossing (fence 7ab) [where he stumbled up the step] and then I let him cruise quietly over one of the oxers in the next field – I should have kept the pressure on and kept riding forwards."

Completing the top three was Louise Harwood, who steered Roy Baker and Emma Baker-Jones' Whitson around the course for just 0.4 of a time penalty.

"He's been nothing but consistent this year," said Harwood, who triumphed in the four-year-old Dubarry Burghley Young Event Horse qualifier with Irish-bred LVS Movistar on Friday.

Highworth-based Australian Paul Tapner (Indian Mill) finished fourth, Lucy Wiegersma (Mr Chunky) came fifth, while crowd favourites Nicola Wilson and Opposition Buzz rounded up the top six.

Zara Phillips competed in the Open Championship with High Kingdom before withdrawing.

William Fox-Pitt won the Smith & Williamson British Intermediate Championship with Catherine Witt's eight-year-old grey Luxury FH, two days after he piloted Judith and Jeremy Skinner and David and Margie Hall's Top Biats to victory in the Martin Collins British Novice Championship.

Aoife Clark took victory on Fenyas Elegance in the Equex China Advanced class, while Sammi Mcleod and the Irish-bred Kincooley Cruising were the runaway winners of the five-year-old Dubarry Burghley Young Event Horse qualifier.

Daisy Berkeley finished 22nd on Montserrat in the Novice Championship and 24th on Mopani in the Advanced section.

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