What a day on so many counts, but one of the outstanding features was Clarke’s class act with Balmoral Sensation.
The fences that had caused issues for many others were made to look easy by this pair. The only slight blot on their perfect round was the time, and they added 8.8 time penalties to their dressage score. Clarke said that Ritchie tired towards the end of the course. “He tired more than I would have expected, but he still jumps really really well when he is tired, he just loses that top speed. I was way up on time at four and five minutes, which I wanted to be, as that is the fast section of the course, then it gets slow through the middle section. I lost a bit of time there, and he just didn’t have the speed at the end to catch it up.”
The combination that caused so much trouble looked straightforward when this pair went through. “I thought when I walked it it was a difficult jump but one that would suit him. The distance was good, he is very good at turning and seeing a jump and straight away understanding what he has to do.”
Clarke, Megan Jones and Sonja Johnson were at the press conference, which was held on the basis that the protests which were being heard would not make any difference to the top three scores. However, nobody expected that Megan would cop a 50 for jumping outside a flag! The scoreboard keeps changing, and at the time this was posted, Ginny had lost the 50 points she’d been given earlier for the same offence, as had Stuart Tinney, who has now moved up to third on War Hawk. Hazel Shannon’s 50 for jumping outside the flags early in the course are still in place, but apparently there is a protest there, too, now that her connections have reviewed the video footage!
The current scoreboard means that Clarke has a rail in hand going into show jumping, as Sonja Johnson is six points behind him. But now Megan is going to protest about her 50 point penalty. What a mess! The funny thing is that the FEI has just posted a video and summary of the event which is now out of date!
Whatever the final result, Clarke still has to show jump well tomorrow but he is sitting on a horse with a very good show jumping record. “He’s a good boy show jumping but anything can happen, and he will have to do a good round, that’s for sure,” Clarke said.
There was a big crowd in attendance, and many headed to watch the riders attempt the bogey fence 8. The biggest cheer of the day was when Ginny Thompson and Star Nouveau were the first to jump clear through the difficult combination.
Ginny was still buzzing after what was a beautiful round. “She was just amazing, as per usual. I stuck to my plan and she answered all my questions. I just love her. I couldn’t help but fist-pump after fence 8, I must have looked like such a wally but I was just so excited. She jumped it so well.”
Ginny did have a life at the last and was kicking herself about it. “I was really annoyed at the last jump, I thought I would give her a little gap to help her out but I gave her too much of a gap and she chipped in, which she never does.”
Ginny acknowledged that she was close to the flag at the water jump, where she was initially awarded the 50 points for being outside the flag. This was removed after a protest from the NZ team. “As we jumped in [to the water] we jumped a bit left and then it was a bit shorter to the skinny. But Paige being Paige, saw those flags and kept going through. I am just so lucky to ride a horse like her.”
Andy Daines had put Spring Panorama in the bad books after the dressage yesterday but he was back in the good books after the round he did today. “He was amazing, he definitely made up for yesterday. He really stepped up. We stuck to the plan, and I knew once we got over that tricky combination we just had to haul arse and make it happen.”
Andy had guidance from Jock Paget on his cross-country plan. “I had Jock in my head going ‘most people, if they are not trying to go straight, they are getting a 20 anyway, so you might as well just kick on and get in there and give it a go.’ So we got there on four [to the second element] and I was like, you are going through the flags, and he did!” Andy added 15.6 time faults to his dressage score and currently sits in 10th place.
Donna had a fantastic round on DSE Mr Hokey Pokey. The little palomino just jumped his heart out and finished with 18 time faults to sit in 8th place. Donna was stoked. “He was absolutely amazing. He had the benefit of running as my second horse, but his heart! He just tried and tried. He was beautiful.”
Donna also had the benefit of Jock’s advice before setting off on Yogi (Mr HP) and was very grateful for it. “A massive thanks to Jock. In the warm-up, he told me not what to do but gave me the confidence to keep kicking and did a very good job helping me warm up. He said, ‘The worst case scenario at fence 8 is you could have a 20, so just keep turning!’ I got to C and went, ‘this horse is unbelievable’. I spent a lot of time patting him all around the course!”
The ever-so-cute horse has become a firm crowd favourite with the Australians as well as the New Zealanders. Donna became aware of this as she went around. “There were so many people in the crowd who knew his name. They were quite close, I think they wanted to pat him as he went past!”
Donna was the trailblazer on Tangolooma and had 40 jumping penalties and 53.6 time faults but was still really happy with the horse. “He finished confident and well. It was a bit of first-horse-itis.” He jumped in well at the tricky combination but Donna admitted they “didn’t have the turn.” They also incurred another 20 later in the course. “Both times were circles.”
Donna also acknowledged all her team and supporters “sitting on the edge of Mum and Dad’s couch” who have helped get her to this point.
Samantha Felton was bitterly disappointed after falling at the last fence. Prior to that she had jumped well but had incurred 20 faults when Ricker Ridge Pico Boo ballooned out over the first of the combination at fence 6, making it impossible to make the turn to the second element. It certainly wasn’t the result Samantha was looking for at her first four-star event.
The Horseland CCI2* class is led by Chelsea Priestley on Skansen Purist, one of the three clear rounds in the time. New Zealander Laura Wallace (based in New South Wales now) on Black Crest (by Crested Wave out of Fancy’s Beau) jumped clear but added 29.6 time faults to be in 21st place.
Laura had Van Heck in the 3* class, and was the first to go. She jumped clear, but had 32.6 time faults and sits in 11th place. No one got within the time; the class leader is Christine Bates on Adelaide Hill, and Shane Rose is second with the fastest round of the day on Swiper, incurring just 1.2 time faults.
Afterwards Laura declared she was delighted with her horses. “Van Heck is a very genuine horse, he goes straight, even if sometimes you are not quite there, he just says ‘I’ve got it Mum’!”
The day finished with significant sadness when it was announced that Gillian Rolton had passed away this afternoon. Gillian was an incredible woman, not only as a horsewoman, but also as an event organiser, and without her this event would never have happened or become the success it is now. Rest in peace, Gillian.