Way, way back in 2007, an impressive young thoroughbred and his equally impressive young rider won the Open Intermediate class at the Arran Station horse trials. It was the first time that Clifton Promise and Jock Paget made the pages of NZ Horse & Pony magazine, but it certainly wasn’t the last.
With the announcement of Clifton Promise’s retirement from competition, we thought it was a splendid time to look back over the last nine years.
Promise is by an American TB stallion called Engagement, out of Darn Style (by Cautious Style), and was bred by Katherine Abernathy of Mosgiel. He trialled five times under the name Bachelor Boy, with no success, and was then re-purposed to a sporthorse career, under the ownership of Frances Stead.
His early eventing career was with Danielle Oliveira (nee Nixon); together they won their first one-star start at Arran Station in 2004 when Promise was just six. The pair had a number of other good wins and places at one-star, including fourth in the CCI1* at Taupo in 2005.
Promise and Jock became a team in 2007, and their first start together was not particularly auspicious; 17th at the CNC1* at Te Rapa. However, they quickly stepped up and just a month later won the Open Intermediate at Arran Station.
Later that season, the pair won the CCI2* at Richfields, the Advanced Intermediate at Springbush Hunua, and then stepped up to three-star with a third at both Puhinui and Kihikihi, then second in the CCI3* at Taupo in May 2008.
Promise’s first three-star win was at the Horse of the Year Show in 2009; he repeated that win a year later, which was the last time we saw him compete on New Zealand soil.
He and Jock then headed to the USA to tackle their first four-star, the Rolex Kentucky 3DE. In Jock’s own words at the time, it was a “disappointing experience”; the pair were 27th. “It’s just another league compared to what I am used to,” said Jock. They scored 60.6pen in dressage, 22 time faults cross-country, and had two show jumping rails.
Nevertheless, New Zealand eventing was not at a strong point, so this was enough to garner selection a few months later for the 2010 World Equestrian Games, at the same venue. This time, Promise and Jock shone; though competing as individuals rather than as part of the NZ team, they stepped up to finish in seventh place, adding just 2.4 time faults to their dressage score.
Two years later, they were certains for Olympic selection for London, and didn’t disappoint when contributing to New Zealand’s team bronze.
In 2013, though, Promise had both his best and worst of times. In May, he stunned even his most ardent supporters by winning Badminton on debut. Five months later, he was the subject of one of the biggest controversies to rock world eventing when he won Burghley only to be stripped of the title for testing positive for a banned sedative.
Much of the next 12 months was spent on the sidelines while the legal wrangling continued; Jock was cleared just in time for him and Promise to be selected for the 2014 World Equestrian Games in France, where they exited on cross-country day after an early run-out.
Did the time out from the sport mean the horse was rusty? We’ll never really know, but just a few weeks later he pulled out what was to be his last brilliant four-star performance, to come second at Burghley behind Andrew Nicholson and Avebury.
Farewell, Clifton Promise, and thanks for the memories.