THERE was never a moment where Andrew Nicholson thought he wouldn’t one day lift the prestigious Badminton Horse Trials trophy.

From grooming for Wanborough-based Sir Mark Todd as an 18-year-old back in 1984, the top step of the podium at Badminton has always been on Nicholson’s radar.

And, despite 36 attempts without success, it never crossed the mind of Marlborough-based Nicholson, who finally got his hand on the elusive prize on Sunday afternoon, that his moment would not come.

“Of course I thought I’d have this day, I just didn’t know when it was going to come,” he said.

“I come here every year thinking I have got a chance.

“Twenty-five years ago when I came here, I thought I had a chance but I had absolutely no chance of even getting around but you have got to talk yourself up when you are young.

“Now I have gotten older, I have got very good horses and I came here two years ago and went into show jumping in first place and came out in sixth or seventh.

“I’ve been in all sorts of places here and not managed to win it.

“I did realise time was running out, especially 18 months ago.”

However, this year, Nicholson left no stone unturned as he looked for his maiden victory from wearing the same riding boots he had worn at Pau when he was in third place after cross-country, with Michael Jung leading, to putting the pressure on second-placed Jung and leader Ingrid Klimke by timing his cross-county round to perfection as he wanted to go out first in the final show-jumping stage.

“When I was warming up, I thought, why don’t I let Ingrid and Michael have the lead and if I can go around and be near enough to them and go and jump a clear (show jumping) round, then I have done my bit and it is up to them,” he added.

“When I started slipping badly, turning towards the last fence, I thought I had mis-judged it and I was going to be a little too far behind them but, as it turns out, that slipping and sliding helped because otherwise I would have perhaps been in second place.

“To have to wait so long for it and a few times to be so near and not make it and slip back down again, it’s pretty hard and you have just got to get over it and move on.

“To keep coming back, I have been lucky to be in a position to have that dream and put it into place and now it has worked, it is an unbelievable feeling.”

Nicholson’s second horse in the competition, Qwanza, finished 12th, climbing from 64th place after the dressage round, with one rail down in the show-jumping.

Stockley-based Astier Nicholas fell two places to 14th on the final day with two fences down, while Great Somerford’s Beanie Sturgis and Lebowski climbed six places to 23rd with one rail down and two time penalties.

The last of the Wiltshire contingent to make it to the final day, Baydon-based Brazilian Marcio Jorge fell to 30th place with 20 jumping penalties.

Marlborough-based Lissa Green made it around the cross-country course at her first attempt to the delight of her mum Lucinda Green but was forced to withdraw Malin Head Clover at the final inspection before the show-jumping.

Eric Winter’s first four-star course design proved a testing one, with 16 horses retiring from the competition, including Ramsbury-based Jesse Campbell, and 16 combinations were eliminated, including Highworth’s Paul Tapner and Purton Stoke’s Danielle Dunn at her first Badminton.