MARLBOROUGH-BASED Andrew Nicholson came out on top at last weekend’s Festival of British Eventing at Gatcombe.

Nicholson took seven horses to the event held at HRH Princess Anne’s estate near Minchinhampton and was rewarded with multiple wins and placings.

The veteran New Zealander landed a rare one-two in the Festival’s feature Open Championship with dual world bronze medallist Nereo and his striking grey Avebury.

Nicholson had previously won the Open class in 2002 with Mallards Treat.

The five-time Olympian was also triumphant in both Advanced sections – with Calico Joe in Section 1 and Quimbo in Section 2.

Nicholson topped off his weekend with second place in the Novice on Omeya and 11th in the Open on Qwanza – and all that after celebrating his 50th birthday earlier in the week.

The top places in the Open were dominated by Antipodeans, with Andrew’s fellow Kiwis Jonathan Paget (Clifton Lush) and Mark Todd (Major Milestone) taking third and fourth placings respectively, with Australian Christopher Burton with Newsprint in fifth.

“They are both good horses and I knew they could go well,” said Nicholson. “Nereo made it feel very easy. He makes it feel like he’s been here before as he seems to know the jumps, even when I make a mistake he makes it feel like it wasn’t too bad.”

The highest placed British combination was Pippa Funnell in sixth place with Mirage D’Elle, which earned her the British Champion title.

Funnell previously won the crown in 1992, aged just 24, and again in 2002.

One to watch for the future is former British Pony Team rider Tom McEwen who was third behind Nicholson and Burton with Dry Old Party in the Advanced, beating last year’s British Open Champion Daisy Berkeley.

Tom, who is based near Swindon, beat off stiff competition with a clear show jumping round but clocked up eight time penalties on the cross country course, which left him just 0.1 point behind the runner-up Burton.

Notably Burton and Jaybee Calypso were the only combination to complete the cross country inside the time.

McEwen, 20, and a former VWH Hunt Pony Club member, also entered Private Rudolf in the Intermediate class but was forced to withdraw him after the dressage.

Paul Tapner, from the Wickstead Farm Equestrian Centre in Highworth, had a double clear with Caicos on the horses’ second outing at Advanced level to finish seventh.

Tapner also had a pleasing day with Kilfinnie, finishing ninth in the Open Championship. This consistent horse achieved the same dressage and show jumping scores as last year but improved his cross country time.

An emotional Zara Phillips broke down in tears in front of the crowds as she retired her beloved Toytown in Gatcombe’s main arena.

Affectionately known as ‘Noddy’, Toytown has been Zara’s top horse throughout her eventing career.

She said: “It’s the end of an era. He was the horse of a lifetime for me. We grew up together, we went through the levels together, and it all just seemed to go our way.

“His movement, his character, it all combined to make him the complete horse. And cross-country, he was just a machine.”

“I don’t think I am ever going to find another horse quite like him, but hopefully others that will be good enough to go to the same level as he did.”

The pair won individual and team gold at the 2005 European Championships, before conquering the world title a year later in Aachen, Germany. Later that year Zara was crowned BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

Toytown, now 18, was spotted as a seven-year-old by Zara’s father, Captain Mark Phillips, and so has grown up with Zara.

Zara, who now lives in Cheltenham, celebrated her wedding to long-term partner Mike Tindall last weekend.