FOR five-time champion Andrew Nicholson, just being back at the Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials was remarkable in itself, but the Marlborough man came close to returning with perfection at his happy hunting ground.

The New Zealander prevailed in the three-day event for three consecutive years to 2014, but last year’s neck injury was expected to rule him out of immediately adding to his titles.

But, defying the odds, Nicholson rode Nereo to a near-perfect Burghley, sitting third after the dressage and cross country, moving up to a runner-up spot with a score of 53.2 penalties, less than a fence away from eventual winner Christopher Burton.

For Nicholson, a return to Burghley certainly provided a lot of emotion, and while he wasn’t able to pull off a complete fairy-tale, there was still plenty of pride to take from a performance which may never have happened.

“I didn’t think I would be finishing in the top few, but I did think I’d be back for Burghley this year,” he said.

“The surgeon told me ‘yes, you’ll be able to ride. It’s up to you, it’s whether your mind will let you’.

“It was a tough time for them and probably tougher for my wife and four children than it was for me.

“I just thought all the way along that I was going to be alright. I thought I was fine, just needed a bit of work done on me, whereas they obviously had seen me and knew that I wasn’t doing any of the things I was normally doing.”

The Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials saw 71 eventers compete across dressage, cross country and show jumping disciplines – with the CCI four-star event considered to be one of the best in the world.

Adding to victory for Australian Burton, Marlborough’s Jonelle Price rounded off an antipodean top three, leading Classic Moet to third place – despite only ranking 22nd after the dressage stage.

“I hadn’t exactly dreamed of the top finish,” she said. “I certainly came here hoping or looking for a top-five, although being 22nd at the end of the dressage wasn’t ideal.

“To me Burghley is the king of the four-stars without any shadow of a doubt, it is the number one.

“It’s big, it’s intimidating, the terrain plays a part, and a horse like Classic Moet is so suited to here.”

It was a successful weekend for the Price household all-round, with Tim finishing just behind his wife in fourth place on Ringwood Sky Boy, who had sat second ahead of the show jumping.

After finishing second on the same horse 12 months ago, expectations were high for the pair, although a fall during the Rio Olympic Games was hardly the ideal preparation for a four-star event.

“I knew he wasn’t a great show jumper, so I wasn’t expecting to be clear but it would have been nice to have done it on the last day,” he said.

“I’m a little disappointed, but we’ll be straight back at it on Monday morning so there’s not too much time to think about it.”

There was also success for Swindon’s Mark Todd, the fifth New Zealander in the top ten, although with eight show jumping faults he admitted there was a tinge of disappointment about not being able to rise up the rankings.

“NZB Campino felt really good this morning, he was going well in the warm up and he wasn’t feeling the effects of the cross country, but it just didn’t quite happen,” he said.

“Burghley is an amazing park, house and estate and it’s probably the toughest three-day event challenge we have around the world at present.”

The multi-award winning Land Rover Burghley Horse Trials (September 1-4) has been established as a major international equestrian and social event in the Autumn Sporting Calendar for over 50 years. For more information visit