Eleven well-performed combinations will compete on Sunday afternoon at the Continental Cars Audi World Cup Festival at Woodhill Sands in Auckland, in the final of the Bayley’s Real Estate FEI World Cup New Zealand League. Competitors will be chasing both bragging rights and the chance to represent New Zealand at the world final in France.
With points-and-a-half up for grabs and the complication of just riders’ best four scores to count, it would be a brave person to pick a series winner before the final fence is jumped.
Series leader Rose Alfeld (Leeston) has clocked up some serious miles during her points chase, with two trips to the North Island. She sits on 74, with a nine-point buffer back to the second-placed Samantha Morrison (Tauranga). It’s mighty tight in the minors, with Melody Matheson (Havelock North) just a point adrift of Morrison, and Emily Hayward (Te Awamutu) another point back.
Rose will be aboard her 12-year-old Holstein-cross, My Super Nova, and they head to the competition in good spirits. “He is feeling great and I am looking forward to the final,” says Rose. “I am trying not to let the added pressure of sitting on top of the leaderboard get to me and just want to go out and do our best.”
Regardless of how they go, she’s a content competitor. “I’ll be happy with him no matter what happens, because he has already exceeded all my expectations for the season.”
Samantha Morrison is hoping her World Cup season will finish with a bang aboard her 12-year-old Selle Français, Biarritz. Melody Matheson is also looking for a good final aboard the Hanoverian, Graffiti MH, with Emily Hayward keen to finish the series on a high with her thoroughbred, AP Ninja.
Emily would dearly love to place in the final and a top three in the series would be a dream come true. “But I am well aware of the stiff competition I will be up against, so will be happy with whatever the outcome.”
Included in that line-up are Olympians Katie Laurie (Mystery Creek) and Clarke Johnstone (Matangi).
Katie is a six-time winner of the series and boasts New Zealand’s best ever result at a World Cup Final with her sixth equal placing in Leipzig, Germany, in 2011. She is flying over from her base in Australia especially for the final, to compete aboard the well-performed mare, Breeze, but her preparation has been a little unusual. “I am flying in and meeting my horse at the show,” she says.
Her mum Vicki McVean has been riding Breeze, along with good mate Tash Brooks.
“It is not ideal not being able to jump her before the show but I am really busy in Australia preparing my horses for a big 2018,” says Katie.
While she can win the final, she cannot win the series as she is also competing in the Australian league.
Clarke Johnstone, New Zealand’s best performed eventer from the Rio Olympic Games, will compete aboard Quainton Labyrinth. “He is feeling really good and jumping nicely at home, so I am hoping for a good result,” says Clarke.
Young gun Briar Burnett-Grant (Taupo) is right in the mix with her roan Fiber Fresh Veroana. The 17-year-old is only just allowed to compete in the series and made quite a statement when she won her first start last weekend.
Also on the card are Tess Clark (Gisborne) aboard Sinatra II, Brit-turned-Kiwi Helen McNaught (Taupo) and her relatively new horse Ngahiwi Ned Kelly, Lucy Olphert (Tauranga) on Eve Saint Laurent, and Logan Massie (Dannevirke) with Intellect.
Gerrit Beker (Tauranga) will design the courses at the show.
The World Cup is the highest-ranked series run in New Zealand and always attracts the cream of the crop, with the overall winner having the opportunity to represent the country at the Longines FEI World Cup Final in Paris later this year.
Bayley’s Real Estate FEI World Cup NZ League Leaderboard (after six rounds – best four to count): Rose Alfeld (Leeston) 74 points 1, Samantha Morrison (Tauranga) 63 2, Melody Matheson (Havelock North) 62 3, Emily Hayward (Te Awamutu) 61 4, Brooke Edgecombe (Waipukurau), Maurice Beatson (Dannevirke) 55 =5, Robert Steele (Dannevirke) 47 7, Tess Clark (Gisborne) 45 8, Briar Burnett-Grant (Taupo) 2
9 9, Lucy Fell (Longburn) 19 10.
WHAT: Bayley’s Real Estate FEI World Cup New Zealand League Final
WHERE: Continental Cars Audi World Cup Festival at Woodhill Sands, Auckland
WHEN: Sunday, January 14, 2018
LIVE STREAMING: jxsport.tv