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Sunday, September 04, 2011  •  13:19 BST

Craig Nicolai riding JUST IRONIC (NZL)

Craig Nicolai riding JUST IRONIC (NZL)


This year there are ten riders from New Zealand competing at The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials. After the cross-country nine of the riders are still in the competition – five of them in the top twenty.

It was first time Burghley for 27-year-old World Equestrian Games (WEG) team bronze medallist Jonathan ‘Jock’ Paget. Jock has been based in Dunsfold, Surrey for the season bringing with him several ‘Clifton’ horses from New Zealand. Both Clifton Promise (16th) – who was 7th at the WEG and Clifton Lush (14th)produced clear rounds for him yesterday with his second ride Lush going inside the time. “They were both very good and I was really stoked (excited and thrilled) to get round,” said Jock who previously considered the track ‘meaty with no freebies’. “Promise showed me how to get round and I learnt the lesson and made it back inside the time with Lush – it felt great.”

Craig Nicholai (46) from Rotorua was competing at Burghley for the second time it was however only just. The lorry bringing in his ride Just Ironic broke down and it was touch and go whether the pair was going to make it for the first horse inspection. Just Ironic was prepared on the lorry while it was mended and they got to the inspection with minutes to spare. However the dressage wasn’t plain sailing either – Craig lost his way twice. “I had the wrong brain in,” said Craig. “Thankfully Angela (Tucker) was very patient as was the crowd but I lost a lot of marks for that.” The pair 77th after dressage came into their own on the cross-country course with the New Zealand-bred Thoroughbred coming home clear inside the time to bring them 45 places up the leader board to 32nd place. “It was absolutely brilliant – I couldn’t have asked for more,” said Craig. “It was a really hard test – lovely huge jumps and he nailed it. I was happy to get home safe – under the time was amazing.”

British based New Zealander Neil Spratt has also enjoyed a good two days so far with the British-bred Upleadon, by Welton Crackerjack to be 19th after cross-country and eventing legend and double Olympic gold medallist Mark Todd is currently just outside the top 20 with the Irish-bred Major Milestone.

And of course the Land Rover perpetual challenge trophy might yet go to a New Zealander – both team veteran Andrew Nicholson and last year’s winner Caroline Powell are within a whisker of winning.

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