In something of a surprise twist, the crowds were witness to a poignant moment before the final session of showjumping at the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials yesterday.
Last year’s winner Nereo had been sitting in 12th place overnight going into the final phase with rider Andrew Nicholson, but was held upon presentation at the final horse inspection. Andrew duly withdrew him from the competition, but he had a plan. As many thousands of people crowded into the stands, man and horse walked into the main arena together one final time to say goodbye to those who had had the joy of cheering them around the biggest tracks in the world through their storied career together. They were greeted by a standing ovation.
“In my mind, I was always retiring him this weekend,” said Andrew. “I knew that if I didn’t win, I’d have to wait until after the showjumping to do it, and by that point, everyone would be leaving. With what happened at the trot-up, they asked me if I wanted to take him in after the stallion parade, and that seemed perfect.”
The eighteen-year-old gelding, owned by Deborah Sellar, had lost a shoe during the prior day’s cross country, but still clocked up one of the fastest times of the day, adding 7.2 time penalties to climb from 33rd to 12th place.
“He lost a shoe, he’s getting old, and his feet aren’t as tough as they used to be,” explained Andrew. “The vet in the holding box wanted me to re-present him, as he looked good on the grass, but on the hard he wasn’t sound. Things didn’t quite work out how I wanted them to, but the show he put on yesterday was superb, and hopefully that’s what people will remember him for. He’s an amazing horse.”
Andrew cites his win here last year – on his 37th attempt – as the highest point in his career with the stalwart campaigner: “We’ve had plenty of lows, too – including losing here when we were winning. But other than him and La Biosthetique Sam, there aren’t many horses you see coming out year after year and not just making up the numbers, but being competitive.”
Andrew began riding the horse when he was a four-year-old, but he had first spotted the horse two years prior at breeder Ramon Beca‘s Spanish base, where he was viewing the then-three-year-old Armada. The Becas’ operation has produced a number of Andrew’s top horses, and he continues to source his string from their stable, but Nereo (Fines x Berganza) wasn’t an obvious champion as a young horse. In fact, says Andrew, he was nine years old before he began to look the part.
Those who had thought him an ugly duckling were quickly proven wrong. The pair went on to individual bronze at the 2010 WEG, a second-place finish at Burghley the following year, as well as winning the CIC3* British Open Championship at Gatcombe the month prior. They were team bronze medallists, and fourth individually, at the 2012 London Olympics, and then travelled south to Pau to win the CCI4* there that autumn. In 2013, they finished third at Badminton and again occupied the runner-up spot at Burghley, and made it a hat-trick with second place at Burghley 2016. They also won the Barbury ERM leg that summer. In 2017, they finally scooped the long-coveted Badminton trophy, finishing the year by notching up an eighth-place finish at Burghley. Nereo retires with an astonishing 3098 British Eventing points.
The rangy chestnut will be missed by fans of the sport, to whom he has given so much joy and excitement over the years, never more so than when tapping his way around Badminton’s showjumping course, toying with our emotions but doing just what he needed to do to claim the win.
He has been ridden by Andrew’s 13-year-old daughter, Lily, at home: “she’s got a great feel for the horses, and can make them go beautifully even when the grooms can’t!” Lily, who has learned this feel from Andrew’s former champions, including the great Avebury, will take over as Nereo’s jockey at home. We can only imagine the incredible lessons the old boy will teach her.
Andrew Nicholson e Nereo (18 anos)desfilaram hoje pela ultima vez na pista principal de Badminton onde cavaleiro e proprietária aposentaram um dos melhores e maiores cavalo de CCE da história , os dois tiveram grandes conquistas e um currículo invejável na modalidade . #happyretirement #badminton #champion #andrewnicholson #nereo @bhorsetrials #mmbht. In that time, he has clocked up wins at Bramham CCI3* in 2009, Aachen CIC3* in 2010, Pau CCI4* in 2012, Barbury CIC3* in 2016 and Badminton 2017. He also finished second at Burghley three times, in 2016, 2013 and 2011, and helped New Zealand to team bronze at the London 2012 Olympics , individual Bronze medal World Championship Kentucky 2010 Probably the best cross country horse we will ever see. In his life he has had 105 cross country starts and jumped clear in 100 of them, 15 of these were 4 stars, he hasn’t had a cross country fault since 2014 and has won a massive 3098 points. It’s been an honour to watch him over the years. Thank you Nereo.
All of us here at Team EN wish Nereo a long, happy, and fulfilling retirement. May the Polos be plentiful and the sunshine in the field keep shining. Thanks for the memories, old boy.