Olympic Eventing: Australia and New Zealand

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A funny thing happened on the way to the Olympics: event horses from Down Under ended up being qualified everywhere but England. Sometimes, you just have to go to Plan B. Just ask the Australian and New Zealand team selectors. When flood-like rainstorms forced the cancellation of the 4* Badminton Horse Trials earlier this month, national team selection committees scrambled to re-write their plans for observation of their top riders. Between the first of May and the Olympics, there is only one four-star event in the world:?Luhm?hlen in Germany in the second week in June. Three-star events in France and Ireland were quickly added to some riders' schedules. It was a scramble. The organizers of the Saumur CCI 3* event last weekend in France weren't expecting such an international lineup of riders. And no one was expecting the end result, which was that a French event in a classic European setting would be dominated by riders from the other side of the world. Four Australians finished in the top ten. Three other top ten places were filled by riders from New Zealand. That's right: seven out of ten places at a top European event were Australians and New Zealanders.

Chris Burton of Australia won the Saumur CCI 3* event last weekend in France on Haruzac. The story doesn't end there: he finished second, too. He knew the Australian team selection committee was there to watch and Chris is determined to represent his country in London. (Les Garennes / Australian Equestrian Team photo)

Chris Burton of Australia won the Saumur CCI 3* event last weekend in France on Haruzac. The story doesn't end there: he finished second, too. He knew the Australian team selection committee was there to watch and Chris is determined to represent his country in London. (Les Garennes / Australian Equestrian Team photo)

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Chris Burton's victory

At the top of the leaderboard was Australia's Chris Burton on Haruzac. Chris was also in second place, with his 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games mount, Holstein Park Leilani. Andrew Nicholson of New Zealand was third and ninth, on Viscount George and Quimbo, respectively. Burton, 31, made his debut for Australia at the 2010 World Equestrian Games. He now his eye on one of the five spots on the Australian Eventing Team for London this summer. ?Winning here in front of the national selectors has given me a better chance to be part of the team for the Olympic Games,? said Burton in an interview for the Australian Equestrian Team. ?My horses were in form today and had really recovered well. All this rain was really good and the going was perfect. I was delighted with the performance of Haruzac, he is the least experienced of the two but he is really full of promise,? he added. Burton's WEG mount, Holstein Park Leilani, finished behind the less-experienced Haruzac. Australia's Bill Legett finished in both fifth, on One Two Many NJ, and sixth on Hippolyte.

Andrew Nicholson's cross-country score changed

The event's scoring was difficult to follow when Kiwi rider Andrew Nicholson?s cross-country time was adjusted. Nicholson and Viscount George were held up on course after Australia's Clayton Fredericks suffered a fall. Organizers mistakenly gave Nicholson time faults on the cross country, when in fact he was the only rider to go clear and inside time. Nicholson?s time was recalculated and he moved into second position, with Burton in first and third. Two rails down in the showjumping dropped Nicholson and Viscount George to third place. New Zealand's longtime Olympic Eventing hero, Mark Todd, rode NZB Grass Valley to earn their qualification for consideration for the Olympics with their seventh placing. Todd's top horse, NZB Land Vision, was injured recently and he hopes to make the team with an alternate horse.

Andrew Nicholson of New Zealand (Equestrian New Zealand photo)

Andrew Nicholson of New Zealand (Equestrian New Zealand photo)

Clayton Fredericks down but not out

Beijing Olympics Eventing silver medalist Clayton Fredericks, a two-time winner of Saumur in the past, suffered a stomach injury when he fell from Be My Guest; on Monday he remained in a French hospital. ?I am absolutely fine (but) feeling frustrated to be laying here in hospital. It is just cautionary as it appeared Lottie (Be My Guest) stepped right on my stomach. (I'll) be scanned in a few days and hopefully on my way and back to London preparations,? Fredericks said on his website. Fredericks has three horses on the Australian team list; in spite of his fall, he is still a strong prospect to be riding for Australia at London. ? 2012 Fran Jurga and DiscoverHorses.com ??? About Fran: Fran Jurga is a self-employed writer and editor from Gloucester, Massachusetts. Her blogs include The Jurga Report for EQUUS Magazine and War Horse News and the Steven Spielberg film. Fran is the founder of Hoofcare and Lameness Journal and writes a specialist Hoof Blog. Fran wrote the WorldRides blog for the Hong Kong equestrian events of the 2008 Beijing Olympics as well as DiscoverWEG for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. You can follow Fran on Facebook and Twitter for more news about the horse world.