Puhinui is looking like a happy hunting ground again for defending champion Virginia Thompson, who put yesterday’s disappointing dressage performance behind her today to storm into the lead in the Honda NZ CCI3*, with the only clear cross-country round within the time, on her talented mare Star Nouveau.
“I’ve officially burned my Nana-pants,” laughed Ginny afterwards, when she learned she was a full 27 seconds faster than anyone else around Titch Massey’s challenging three-star track.
“I was pretty flat after yesterday, but she’s a great cross-country horse and I know her so well. I thought we might move up a bit with a good performance, but I didn’t expect to move from ninth to first!”
Ginny was first out in the steady rain, which mercifully didn’t intensify, but made the track slippery for the three-star riders. She and ‘Paige’, who gallops like a thoroughbred but is in fact a New Zealand-bred warmblood by Goldstar, took all the straight-through routes. “She had to make up for yesterday,” Ginny says, and the pair were six seconds under the optimum time, an outstanding effort, particularly with the tricky footing.
The next three combinations out on track failed to complete, leaving Ginny alone in the cooling-down area wondering what was happening out there.
Sarah Dalziell-Clout and Benrose Super Star parted company at the upright skinny that was the first element of the water complex; the horse chipping in to a very deep distance that just wasn’t going to work. Kirsty Sharapoff was eliminated for a fall off Shoot the Breeze at fence 12, then dressage leader Amanda Pottinger and Just Kidding were looking fine until the big ramp drop into the water. ‘Ferg’ didn’t want a bar of it, stopping twice, and Amanda sensibly elected to call it a day.
It was up to one of the two youngest riders in the class, 20-year-old Renee Faulkner and Rubinstar HH, to break the hex. The 160cm warmblood isn’t the fastest galloper, but put in an efficient, confident performance to come home clear with 10.4 time, which eventually saw them come up from 11th to fifth place.
Jackson Bovill was the other 20-year-old in the class, with his spunky mare Visionnaire, and the pair have been looking serious contenders in their first season at Advanced, but sadly it wasn’t their day today, a run-out at the corner in the water followed by two more further on course leading to elimination.
Diane Gilder and Your Attorney were sitting second after dressage, and cross-country is usually their forte, but after a bold jump into the water, he ran past the corner and then right out of the arena before Diane could regain control and re-present. After a second run-out, they did complete the water, only to part company slipping around the turn on the exit. It was an unfortunate ending to the spring season for the pair.
Next out were Donna Edwards-Smith and DSE Mr Hokey Pokey – and such a lot of heart he showed, particularly at the water complex where he literally clambered over both the corner and down over the big drop. They were clear, so that was the third combination home, but incurred 22 time faults, which dropped them to fourth place.
Brent Jury’s SE Hedging, at just eight years old, was the youngest and greenest horse in the field, and what a lovely ride the farrier from Canterbury gave him. Home clear, with 19.6 time, and into sixth place.
Samantha Felton says she has learned a lot from her recent sojourn to Australia with her two top horses, and it showed today during an extremely polished round with Ricker Ridge Escada. I suspect it’s not going to be long before Sam has a three-star title to add to her already-impressive trophy cabinet. They were home clear, with 10.8 time, and are now in second place.
Now it was the turn of the very experienced Song and Abby Lawrence, and they were easily the best through the first part of the water complex, though had to take a moment after the big drop in, finding themselves jumping unexpectedly up on the central bank instead of taking a sharp right turn to the bounce out.
“My whip and reins were all in a tangle – it wasn’t a great feeling heading into a bounce – and luckily she just halted on top of the bank and waited for me to sort myself out,” Abby explained afterwards.
Even with that hiccup, it was a fast round, and clear, with 8.4 time and into third place.
The last rider out was Campbell Draper with Mr Mancini, who had the worst of the conditions and perhaps the sticky take-offs took their toll, as they didn’t look altogether comfortable, before having a stop and then retiring at fence 13.
So it’s just six left to show jump tomorrow, presuming everybody comes through the trot-up unscathed, with Ginny having a rail in hand over Sam. Abby is then less than a rail behind Sam, and Donna only 1.7pen behind Abby, so it will a nail-biting contest to be sure.
The two-star horses on the whole made a good job of their cross-country today, though there is a new leader in the iSpyHorses CCI2*, after dressage leaders Megan Finlayson and Greensleeves departed early on course after a crash at the first combination.
That opened the door for Ashleigh McKinstry and Pioneer Brass Monkey to take the lead, a beautifully judged four seconds under time, though Abby Lawrence and Charlton Yamani are on an equal penalty score (though being 23 seconds under, are further away from the optimal time, so sit second).
Ashleigh was delighted with her homebred and self-produced horse, who has most unusual bloodlines, being out of a 13.2hh Kaimanawa pony mare and by a 3/4 TB, quarter Clydesdale stallion. Ashleigh says he was quirky in the extreme as a youngster, but is a strong and bold jumper, and she believes he has the talent to go all the way in the sport.
Abby, too, was full of smiles. “I’m so lucky to have him – he’s a brilliant, brave horse and he knows his job so well now.”
Madison Crowe with Waitangi Pinterest is less than a rail behind them, as is Dannie Lodder with Balmoral Henton in fourth, so again show jumping is going to be critical.
In the Honda NZ CCI2* Young Rider, dressage leaders Sarah Young and Leo Degas had an early run-out to drop out of contention, and young Lucy Turner from Christchurch on Carbon now has a healthy two-rail lead, from Maria van Kuijk on Antara Whiskey Mac.
The scoreboard was thoroughly scrambled after an influential cross-country day for the one-star riders. Angela Lloyd is now in front in the Veterinary Associates CCI1*, on her lovely mare Lyrical, with a beautiful and fast clear leaving them on their dressage score of 45.8.
First-placed Madison Crowe and Lucius GNZ were eliminated early on course, third-placed Christen Lane and Kinnordy Rhani retired, and fifth-placed Donna Edwards-Smith and Our Airfare of Renton were also eliminated.
Andrew Daines and Giacattolo are now second, with a fast and classy clear, and Donna is third on DSE Cluny.
Bryce Newman has climbed up from seventh to fourth on Bates Our Entourage, and Sam Felton from ninth to fifth on Nochraha. Rounding up the top six are Chanel Campbell and Astek Guardsman, with the fastest clear of the day.
In total there were eight eliminations, one retirement and two withdrawals, leaving 24 of the original 35 starters to show jump tomorrow.
The Junior Riders in the DEVI Heating Systems CCI*J had much better statistics, though the elimination of second-placed Greer Caddigan and Gymnastic Showdown was a surprise.
Vicky Browne-Cole holds her lead, on Eli, while Beth Wilson is now second on Alto et Audax, and Sophie Alexander third on World Famous. Elise Power is fourth on Arctic Cielo, Savanna Stirling fifth on Ngahiwi Lenny, and Katrina Butler Gallie sixth on Tarndale Endeavour.
NZ Horse & Pony CNC105
The NZ Horse & Pony CNC105 class has a new leader, after Donna Edwards-Smith retired CHS Ripleys Dream on course today.
Alex Anderson and Gina VT Bloemenhof were a second over the time, for 0.4pen, but are now in first place on 23.4, with Kyle Calder not far behind her after his super-fast clear on Apteryx, on 25.9.
Sarah Young was a second under time in a well-judged round on Equador MW, and is now third on 28.5, Zoe Ander fourth on Princess Rebecca, on 30.5, and Hayley Pickmere will be thrilled with a good round on Makers Mark, to sit just behind her in fifth on 30.6pen.
Sylvie MacLean rounds up the top six on My Black Beauty, on 31.
Nearly all the 105 riders made easy work of the track, with just two eliminations (one for a missed jump), three retirements, and four riders incurring 20 jumping penalties – and of those four, only one had a single time fault.
Fiber Fresh CCN95
Leisa Keightley was first equal after dressage with Black Attire, but now holds the lead all on her own in the Fiber Fresh CCN95cm class, with a stylish clear three seconds under the time. Her fellow dressage leader Christine Jeffs was also clear, but had 10.4 time faults across the country to drop well out of contention.
Christen Lane and Henton Armada now hold second place, on 29.5, with Lisa Chapple and Stiloso Whataretheodds on the same penalty score but in third, as they were not as close to the optimum time.
Emily Wright and Midnight Blue are fourth on 30.5pen, Cameron Boon and Esperanza Power Trip fifth on 30.6, and Jeffrey Amon holds sixth on Matches.