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The superstars of New Zealand eventing head to the prestigious Luhmuhlen Three Day Event in Germany this weekend.
The top-ranking event is the penultimate round of the prestigious HSBC Classics series, the six grand slams of eventing.
Likely London Olympian Andrew Nicholson has three horses – Shady Grey (owned by 2012 in Mind Syndicate), Calico Joe (owned by 2012 in Mind Syndicate) and Mr Cruise Control (owned by Robin and Nicola Salmon) entered in the event.
Nicholson is chasing both a podium finish and valuable points in the classics series where he currently sits second behind long-time rival William Fox-Pitt. With $US150,000 for the series winner there is plenty at stake. The final leg of the series is at Burghley in late August. Nicholson is no stranger to Luhmulen and says it's a very tough event to shine at.
"It's a proper four star," he says. "The standard of dressage is always very high. They have a very good arena (for the dressage) which the horses work well on. It's the same for the showjumping too, but with a good surface comes big courses."
He's done well there in the past, and is expecting good things from Mr Cruise Control who did his first four star (the highest level in world eventing) event there in 2010 and finished fourth. "I'm really looking forward to it," said Nicholson.
Mark Todd will start on Major Milestone (owned by Diane Brundsen and Peter Catell) as well as Megan Heath and her own St Daniel.
Equestrian Sports high performance coach Erik Duvander is putting his money on Nicholson to do well.
"He's there with three good horses and he's on a mission to win some prize money in the classics series," said Duvander. "Calico Joe is in good shape and will arrive there as a better horse than he was in Kentucky. Mr Cruise Control is possibly on paper one of Andrew's most successful horses ever and is looking good.
He's been there a few times before, so knows the track and the event suits him well.." Duvander describes Luhmulen as "an old classic venue" which has played host to the world and European championships numerous times.
"There are not the big numbers there of previous years because it is so close to the Olympics, but it is never an easy one to win," he said. The four star horses will compete in the dressage phase on Friday (German time), followed by the cross country on Saturday and showjumping on Sunday.
HSBC FEI Classics Standings:
William Fox-Pitt (GBR) 30 points, Andrew Nicholson (NZL) 16, Stuart Tinney (AUS) 15, Alison Springer (USA) 12, Sonja Johnson (AUS) 12, Boyd Martin (USA) 10, Emma Mason (AUS) 10, Mary King (GBR) 8, Karen O'Connor (USA) 8, Natalie Blundell (AUS) 8.
NOTE TO EDITORS
A CCI is traditionally a three day event with each of the disciplines (dressage, cross country and showjumping) running on separate days. The cross country is between 5,700m and 6270 m.
Four star ranking is the highest in global eventing competition, and there are just a handful of them run each year.