HOY: John’s record-breaking Special

John Thompson and JHT Antonello, record-breaking in the GP Special (image: Libby Law)

John Thompson and JHT Antonello set a new national record for the Grand Prix Special at HOY, scoring 71.34% with a ‘clean round’ in Saturday evening’s test. John and his 16-year-old Antonello bettered the previous New Zealand record of 70.83% which they had achieved at the National Dressage Championships just last month.

John was clearly delighted: “I’m very happy! To hold your nerve and add as much power and expression as you can to try and win, without making a mistake or losing the shape or rhythm or harmony is really hard,” he says.

“When you do a good test, you feel like you’ve got time, and I felt like I could have sat up there and had a cup of tea. It was a really lovely feeling. I don’t think those rides happen very often, but that was one of those.”

Both John and AJ look notably more relaxed than in the past, and John says he’s worked hard on making sure he doesn’t over-ride the test.

“I guess it’s an age and experience thing. I’ve managed to keep a little more softness and relaxation in the way I go about things.”

The Grand Prix is shaping up to be a two-horse race between John and Julie Brougham, who also produced a lovely test with Vom Feinsten. The Palmerston North pair looked confident and were expressive, but an uncharacteristic mistake in their two-time changes cost Julie and Steiny the win. They scored 69.91% to finish second.

The Dressage Horse of the Year title will be decided after Sunday’s Grand Prix freestyle. So far, John and Julie have been in a league of their own and it looks likely one of them will win the musical tomorrow – if they do, they will take the title home.

Tumbling records aside, it’s an exciting time for New Zealand dressage, with promising new combinations emerging in the Grand Prix ranks. Rotorua rider Debbie Barke and her warmblood-stationbred cross Lucrative SW did a beautiful test to score 65.08% in the Special. Debbie had a massive grin on her face in the latter stages of the test, as her talented ‘Luke’ went from strength to strength.

Clevedon’s Sheena Ross and her 10-year-old Parkridge Disco also had some real highlights in the Special to score 64.95%, and finished fourth.

Lucarne wins Advanced Horse of the Year

Young Rider Lucarne Dolley was somewhat shocked to take out the Level 6/7 Advanced Horse of the Year title with her stationbred mare Devils Chocolate. Lucarne has been sick all week with a virus and spent the early part of the show in bed. Finishing sixth in the Prix St Georges warm-up class, she wasn’t expecting to place anywhere overall in the 22-strong field. However, Lucarne showed her mettle and went on to finish second in both the Inter 1 and the musical freestyle. Somewhat refreshingly, the gorgeous Devils Chocolate has no fancy European bloodlines – she’s a good old Kiwi stationbred off the hills, of unknown lineage.

Lucarne Dolley and Devils Chocolate on their way to winning the L6/7 title (image: Libby Law)

Lucarne’s second place in the freestyle was remarkable given her music skipped several times. She ended up with an extra half minute of trotwork and had to improvise on the spot, but the harmony and quality of her work was so impressive that she still scored 70.52%, not far behind the class winners, Kieryn Walton and Rosari Don Carlos, on 71.9%,

“I actually didn’t think that would happen – there are so many good horses in that class!” she says.

Lucarne and Devils Chocolate were Young Rider Champions here two years ago, but missed out on competing at HOY in 2017 when the mare tweaked a tendon in the warm-up arena. They are off to compete at the Sydney CDI in May, but because Lucarne has several younger horses coming up behind, her beloved 13-year-old ‘Tilly’ is on the market. Surprisingly, so far there haven’t been many potential buyers lining up, possibly because the mare used to have a reputation for being a little difficult.

“She wasn’t the easiest to start with and had a few tricks up her sleeve, but she’s actually been very solid for the past two years now. So far we’ve had no serious enquiries, but I don’t mind, because I love riding her.”

Lucarne (19) has been based with Vanessa Way for the past two years as her working pupil/groom, and Vanessa was tremendously proud of her young protege. “Lucarne is exceptional – she is as cool as a cucumber.”

Unfortunately for Vanessa, who won both the Prix St George and the Inter I, her own hopes in the Level 6/7 title slipped away when NRM KH Arion became very tight and worried in the freestyle. The dark brown powerhouse has been the one to beat in Advanced all season, yet the packed grandstand obviously scared him and they finished sixth. However, Vanessa did win the Inter B Level 8 title test with NRM Andreas on 69.62%, from Melissa Galloway on Windermere Johanson W (66.57%).

Lucarne’s winning streak continued in the CDIY Young Rider Individual Title Test, which she won on Ardmore with 65.17%, from Amy Sage on RM All About Me, second on 64.82%.

Lucarne Dolley and Ardmore on their way to winning the CDIY FEI Young Rider (image: Libby Law)
Amy Sage and RM All About Me (Image: Libby Law Photography)