Amanda Pottinger is the first to admit that show jumping has been her Achilles heel in eventing. But today she and her elegant nine-year-old thoroughbred Just Kidding slew that particular demon in emphatic style, coming from behind to seal the sport’s highest New Zealand honour, the Wills Trophy for CCI 3* Open Champions at the NRM National 3DE in Taupo.
Amanda held the lead after dressage, slipped to second with 16 time penalties cross-country, and show jumped clear to snatch the victory when overnight leaders Sarah Dalziell-Clout and Benrose Super Star dropped a rail.
“It’s my first clear show jumping round at three-star – and what a time to do it,” said a jubilant Amanda (24), who is known widely as Muzi.
With the victory the biggest by far of her career to date, she has lived up to her exemplary equestrian pedigree; Muzi is the daughter of former Olympian Tinks and former Eventing NZ chairman Andy Pottinger, and the granddaughter of the legendary dressage pioneer and former ESNZ patron Tiny White, all of whom were ringside and no doubt riding every stride with her.
Bursting with pride, Tiny declared she was “ticked pink” with the result. “Our family has been so involved with horses that I feel it’s just so wonderful that one of my grandchildren is carrying on at this level. She’s really dedicated, she just loves it.”
Muzi works full time but flexible hours as a business analyst for dairy farming company, BEL Group, in Waipukurau, and says she’s not in a hurry to ride professionally.
She has trained with Jeff McVean for show jumping over the last six months. “I’ve worked so hard on my own show jumping, and on this horse’s jumping, and thanks to Jeff it’s paid off,” she said. “He’s such a good coach, it’s a really simple system but I get so many ideas.
“I’m so, so happy, but just still so shocked – I came to this event with the aim of getting a qualifying score. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would win it!”
But Taupo is obviously a venue that agrees with Muzi: she and Just Kidding won the CCI1* title in 2014, and, the year before, she won the 1.05 championship title on Achilles II. Now she just has the CCI2* title to go before she joins the elite and very exclusive group of riders to have the full set of Taupo titles – the sole members of this group are Donna Smith, Matthew Grayling and Muzi’s mother, Tinks.
Muzi laughs that her goal now “is to beat my mother – and it always will be”, but jokes aside, she hopes for a good tilt at Puhinui in December, though has no firm plans for her horse, who is still just nine.
Sarah Dalziell-Clout was understandably bitterly disappointed to be so near and yet so far from victory, but said sportingly that if she was going to be beaten, she’s glad it was by Muzi. Sarah’s focus is now on her role supporting New Zealand’s high performance riders as the Rio Olympics approaches, but she hopes next season to have a good run at Puhinui on ‘Basil’, with the aim of making a trans-Tasman team.
“My horse has matured a lot; he knows his job and he doesn’t need to run every weekend so I can just pick and choose which events to do,” she said.
In third place was Katharine Van Tuyl, who was probably the favourite going into the event after victories at Kihikihi and Puhinui, but who was unable to overcome an uncharacteristically sub-par dressage performance from Double J Sunshine.
“I’ve only just forgiven Sunny for blowing up in his dressage,” she joked, after her terrific clear show jumping round piled pressure on the two riders ahead of her.
She will now aim Sunny at the four-star in Adelaide later this year, and also plans to do more show jumping with the superbly talented eight-year-old.
Samantha Felton will be pleased to have consolidated her move up to three-star level with a good result at the end of the season, fourth on Ricker Ridge Pico Boo, and eighth on Ricker Ridge Escada. She too would like to get to the CCI4* at Adelaide, but revisions to the qualification requirements mean she’ll need to complete another CCI3* in Australia first.
Andrew Daines was fifth on his well-performing Spring Panorama, show jumping clear, and Emily Cammock jumped clear with a single time fault on Shaw Lee to slot into sixth.
Emily revealed that she is due to have baby number two in November, so will likely miss much of next season, though she will keep working on Shaw Lee’s dressage and perhaps aim for Adelaide the following year.
Muzi’s win with Just Kidding (Fusaichi Pegasus/Gypsy Princess) spearheaded the almost total domination of thoroughbreds at Taupo; in a welcome revival, TBs took first and second place in the three-star, the top four places in the two-star, first and second in the 1.05m championship, and first place in the Young Event Horse class.
Kirsty Sharapoff was probably the most excited winner we’ve seen at Taupo, almost beside herself with excitement after taking out the ultra-competitive Bates CCI2* on her beloved thoroughbred, Shoot the Breeze.
The high school teacher from Christchurch says she “didn’t know whether to puke or cry” before show jumping. She was last to go, as she was sitting in the lead, and had no rails in hand – in fact a single pole down would have relegated her to fourth, such was the closeness of the scores at the top of the leaderboard.
But she kept her nerve with a steady, well-planned clear – despite an agonising moment when she got very deep at the liverpool, and ‘Merv’ had to climb out over the top, to gasps of admiration from the crowd.
Fellow mainlanders Brent Jury and SE Hedging (Royal Gem/Full of Class) also had to jump clear to hold their second place, and did so in commendable fashion, despite Brent’s admission beforehand that this is not his strongest phase.
Virginia Thompson piloted Man of Honour (Postponed/Big Soiree) for a clear round into third; this horse was seriously impressive over the coloured poles, and by the looks could easily turn a hoof to a straight show jumping career.
Abigail Long completed the quartet of top-placing thoroughbreds in the two-star, with a well-judged clear on Enzo (Monza/Holy Spirit).
Fiber Fresh CCI1*
Aucklander Lauren Alexander had the biggest win of her career to date, taking out the one-star championship on Classic Indigo: an impressive victory on the seven-year-old Clydesdale-Arabian mare.
Lying third after cross-country, Lauren sealed her win with a clear show jumping round, when the two riders ahead of her, Angela Lloyd and Samantha Felton, each had three rails to drop right down the order.
She describes the mare as a “brilliant jumper”, but very hot, so getting her brain engaged is the key. “She’s had her brain all weekend, luckily. She’s super-bold, and jumps anything in front of her.”
Lauren hopes to move her up to two-star next season, but admits that dressage will be the challenge.
Dannie Lodder didn’t have her best weekend at Taupo, but was thrilled with second in the one-star on former Young Event Horse winner Eon, a Hanoverian by El Bundy and bred by Sarah Milne out of her good mare Diversity. The pair were 11th after dressage, but were foot-perfect in both jumping phases.
It was a huge run up the leaderboard from 20th after dressage to third overall for Holly Morrell and Pampero, thanks to great jumping performances, and Judy Hatfull was rapt with her fourth place on the massive mare Timely, who is by the Grand Prix dressage star Airthrey Highlander.
Show Cause was a champion racehorse, with more than $500,000 in winnings, and it’s no surprise to his rider and owner Kelsey Leahy that he’s taken to his new eventing career with gusto, claiming the 1.05m title at Taupo.
“A good racehorse has an x-factor that transfers across. They are athletic and know their job,” said Kelsey, who was especially delighted to win her first-ever rug with the 10-year-old ‘Gazza’, who raced until he was seven and so is a late starter to eventing.
He was superb all weekend at Taupo, fourth after dressage with a super test scoring just 30.4pen, and not adding to it, rising to the top after a beautiful cross-country round when the three horses ahead of him all struck problems.
Gazza won the Avondale Cup and was second in the Auckland Cup during his 34 starts. With a young daughter Harriet, and another baby on the way in November, Kelsey says she only has time for one horse at the moment, so luckily it’s such a super one.
He will now have the spring off, and then if all goes well, step up to one-star in the second half of next season.
Kylie McCambridge had a well-earned second place on the equally impressive former racehorse Chicago (Pentire/Turtle Creek), who has had a stellar season.
And Chanel Hargrave looks like she has another great prospect on her hands, in third place with Moving On, a thoroughbred by Yamanin Vital out of Personify; the pair were 13th after dressage but didn’t add a thing to that score.
AMS Saddlery CCI1* Open
Breeder Trewey Black was beyond thrilled with the win of Just Imagine That, ridden and owned by Gemma Hampson, in the open one-star class. The nine-year-old mare is by a full Clydesdale stallion out of an East Coast stationbred mare, and was in fifth place after dressage but rose to second after cross-country and sealed the win today with clear show jumping.
Leader after cross-country was last year’s 105 title winner Frank Phillips and I Told You So, but an unfortunate four rails put paid to Frank taking two titles on the trot. Even so, he held on for fourth place.
Georgia Bennett was second on Johnny Castle, and Lauren Alexander continued her excellent weekend with third place on BMW Ripley.
Wade CCN105 Open
Whangarei school teacher Helen Withers was the only rider who led from start to finish all weekend, taking out the open 105 title on her home-bred and -produced Woodbine Just in Case, a Holsteiner by Corlando. The pair finished on their 29pen dressage score.
Helen says she was “amazingly happy” with the win, especially as it was on a horse who only did her first eventing competition in February, having mainly done show hunter to that point.
The Pompallier College maths teacher says the mare’s dam, Woodbine, is now in-foal to Senator VDL, sire of Balmoral Sensation among other superstars. “So we’re very excited about that!”
Cherie Jacques and the ever-consistent Black Gem, a former 105 title winner, were second on their 29.9 dressage score.
Young rider Shannon Galloway was third on Day Walker, and Susan Le Mesurier fourth on her much-loved and back from injury Lightman.
NRM CCI3* Open National Championship: Amanda Pottinger, Just Kidding, 62.6, 1; Sarah Dalziell-Clout, Benrose Super Star, 63.3, 2; Katharine Van Tuyl, Double J Sunshine, 65.8, 3; Samantha Felton, Ricker Ridge Pico Boo, 78.7, 4.
Bates CCI2*: Kirsty Sharapoff, Shoot the Breeze, 51.9, 1; Brent Jury, SE Hedging, 52.1, 2; Virginia Thompson, Man of Honour, 54.6, 3; Abigail Long, Enzo, 55.8, 4; Juliet Wood, Waitangi Pinterest, 57.2, 5; Abby Lawrence, Charlton Yamani, 65.4, 6.
Fiber Fresh CCI1*: Lauren Alexander, Classic Indigo, 48.3, 1; Dannie Lodder, Eon, 49.7, 2; Holly Morrell, Pampero, 53.5, 3; Judy Hatfull, Timely, 55, 4; Karla Wilson, Stoney Mara, 57.3, 5; Angela Lloyd, Lyrical, 57.5, 6.
Wairakei CCN105: Kelsey Leahy, Show Cause, 30.4, 1; Kylee McCambridge, Chicago, 32.2, 2; Chanel Hargrave, Moving On, 33.6, 3; Donna Edwards-Smith, Sunset Pass, 33.8, 4; Gracie O’Leary, Willesden Green, 37.7, 5; Sally Gunny, Kiwi Highlight, 40.1, 6.
AMS Saddlery CC1*: Gemma Hampson, Just Imagine That, 57.4, 1; Georgia Bennett, Johnny Castle, 59.4, 2; Lauren Alexander, BMW Ripley, 64, 3; Frank Phillips, I Told You So, 68.8, 4.
Wade CCN105 Open: Helen Withers, Woodbine Just in Case, 29, 1; Cherie Jacques, Black Gem, 29.9, 2; Shannon Galloway, Day Walker, 32.9, 3; Susan Le Mesurier, Lightman, 35, 4.
Silver Spurs (Inter-Island teams) trophy: North Island (Juliet Wood/Waitangi Pinterest, Dannie Lodder/Eon, Jackson Bovill/Visionnaire, Katharine Van Tuyl/Double J Sunshine), 118.1, 1; South Island (Brodie Roberts/SR Livingstone, Lucy Turner/Carbon, Kirsty Sharapoff/Shoot the Breeze, Emily Cammock/Shaw Lee), 148.5, 2.
Charlton Stud prize for best performed mare: Lauren Alexander, Classic Indigo
Casey Trophy for best presented: Sarah Young, The Little Prince
NZPCA Award: Renee Faulkner, Hunua PC, Rubinstar HH.