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Nicholson Wins Punchestown CCI***
Punchestown, Ireland
by Amber Heintzberger
Photo: Anthony Trollope/StockImageServices.com
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Andrew Nicholson (NZL) and Silbury Hill
Andrew Nicholson (NZL) cut it very close, but in spite of two rails down and three time penalties he and Silbury Hill (60.2) managed to maintain their lead to win the Irish Horse Board CCI*** at the Punchestown Three-Day Event supported by Sheehy Motors Audi Allroad in Punchestown, Ireland May 17-20, 2007. Oliver Townend (GBR) came very close to winning the three-star but one time penalty with Flint Curtis (61) put him 0.8 of a point behind Nicholson, who also came third on Armada (63.9), even with a rail and three time faults. Matthew Wright (GBR) and Another Cavalier placed fourth with the only double clear round of the day; Wright also won the CCI* riding Noisette des Pres, topping a field of 40 horses.

"The time was tight and he is a big jumper," Nicholson said of nine-year-old Silbury Hill. "It helped to have ridden the one horse before, rather than just watching people go around," explained Nicholson, who also rode Armada in the middle of the pack. "I was a bit slow but I imagine if I had started out faster and had another rail down I would be kicking myself for that too." Both horses are by the Spanish stallion Maximillion Saluut and are owned by Paul Ridgeon. Nicholson said that he plans to give both horses a small break and them take them to Burghley or Blenheim this fall.

Many horses had rails down and only three finished inside the time allowed. Irish Niall Griffin had a fast round with Lorgaine, but four rails down dropped him from second to fifth place overall. Fellow countryman Michael Ryan also had four rails down riding his Olympic veteran Old Road, finishing sixth overall. But Ryan had better luck in the CCI**, which he won riding Master Mexico (48.7), who had one rail down.

"I don't know what to make of it," said Ryan of his first-ever Punchestown win, adding humbly, "The horse helped me out, I'm afraid! I just left it up to him." Master Mexico is an eight-year-old gelding by Master Imp and is owned by Donal Healy.

Oliver Townend once again had a close finish in the two-star, finishing just one point behind Ryan on Jackson D'Allez (49.7). The gelding had two rails down, granting victory to the host country. Townend also finished sixth on Waterview and eighth on Daisy Crazy in the two-star competition. Australian Paul Tapner finished just 1.2 penalties behind Townend to place third on Stormhill Michael, followed by Andrew Nicholson on Stormhill Kossack. 33 horses in all completed the event at the two-star level.

Townend, who with girlfriend Piggy French runs a large yard in Leicestershire, England was pleased with all of his horses and said that he hopes his next big event will be the European Championships with Flint Curtis. "I have only had him for about a year," he said of the athletic grey gelding. He explained that he had planned to compete at Badminton but was one of many entrants who withdrew due to hard footing. "I had to run him somewhere, he is that fit," he said, "So I brought him over with the two-star horses who were already entered here."

Communications director Ros Murphy said that Punchestown's entries were way up after Badminton, when many riders decided to run their horses in Ireland instead of at Badminton. Chatsworth's entries last weekend were also increased due to the footing at Badminton. Even though Ireland did not have its usual rains, the weather was wetter than in England and Murphy said that while the organizers kept an eye on the predicted precipitation, they did not need to do any extra watering to keep the footing in perfect shape for the event.


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