Sometimes, the story just is better than the high concept…

6 May

badminton press conf

See the guy on the right, the one no one is really looking at or directing questions to?

Well, that is who won Badminton Horse Trials this year. Jonathan (Jock) Paget. The OTHER Kiwi. Not Toddy, not the darling of the moment, Andrew Nicholson, but Jock Paget. He was 1st and 14th with his two horses, Clifton Promise and Clifton Lush. He helped New Zealand win the team bronze at the London Olympics, which help[ed him gain 3rd place in the world rankings.

Before turning to horses full time, he worked as a bricklayer and thought about being a bronc rider (must be an honored profession down in the Antipodes, coz  Ozzie WEG dressage rider  Bret Parbery dressage riders also started as bronc rider).

In any case, all the buzz has been about the Grand Slam aspirations of  British rider William Fox-Pitt (5th today )Kiwi rider  Andrew Nicholson (3rd) and  German rider Michael Jung (2nd). All great riders with great equine partners.

But only one person to date has ever won Badminton on the first try– The Legend, Mark Todd. Who has won 4 Badmintons, the most recent in 2011 after returning to the sport he left for several years.

And now, another Kiwi has achieved this honor. Yes, this is Jock Paget’s first Badminton and first double-clear show jumping round at a 4*.

Somehow, it just feels right, as horse sport changes and morphs into new versions of the disciplines, it just feels right that The Legend’s achievement has been passed to another Kiwi–and no longer the unknown one.


The Derby. By which Americans mean the Kentucky Derby and the rest of the racing world is divided between loyalty to the Epsom version and the New World  copycat version.

In any case, this year’s Kentucky Derby was won by total class: The owners,the Phipps, one of the last great racing family dynastys–100 years and this is their FIRST Derby winner–  they have bred for ‘the look of eagles’ through countless generations of slim,eager,ambitious equine hopes and dreams. The trainer, Shug McGaughey, one of the few (and getting fewer) great horsemen still in the ranks of trainers, up there in the pantheon with Sunny Jim, Leroy Jolley, Johnny Nerud–only without a Derby winner. And now he has  one, hopefully a great one, in Orb.

At a time when horse racing is in disfavor and ill repute worldwide, this touch of class cannot but help restore some of the glamor and shine that has always been the horses’ great hearts.

Here’s to you, Shug!

shug orb

(It takes a team in horse racing: Orb,wearing the Phipps family colors, ridden by Joel Rosario and trained by the incomparable Shug McGaughey)



A photo of Carl Hester and his new partner, Dances With Wolves (Golly),after winning the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Special at Saumur CDI.

I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.


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