Rose Alfeld went into the final of the World Cup in pole position and proved a worthy winner at the end of the day.
In front of a big crowd packed into every available space, from the swish corporate area to the grass banks around the Continental Cars Premier Arena, the ten competitors had a real challenge on their hands to conquer Gerrit Beker’s course.
Lucy Olphert and Eve Saint Laurent were first to go in round one, and did a great job, with the horse trying really hard but unfortunately taking the first of the treble down and adding a time fault to leave them on a score of 5.
Katie Laurie and Breeze were next up, but things had not been going well in the small practice arena; Breeze was obviously not in the mood for jumping on this hot Sunday afternoon. Katie said afterwards that she nearly pulled out then, but thought she would see what happened, so retired quickly when the mare refused at the first fence. “She’s told us she definitely wants to retire, so it is off to the broodmare paddock for her!” The only thing uncertain about that decision was whether there was still time this year to get the breeding started for this lovely mare.
Logan Massie and Intellect don’t have much experience at this level, and finished their round with 16 faults. On the other hand, Helen McNaught has oodles of experience, but not much with her new horse Ngahiwi Ned Kelly, and the pair recorded 24 faults, which included time faults.
Clarke Johnstone and Quainton Labyrinth were also having their first World Cup start, and did a very impressive round, just taking the last of the treble. Having one shoe come off before the last fence, and then pulling another off going through the finish flags meant there were questions as to whether they were going to be back for the second round, but the blacksmith on duty soon had them fixed. He had another customer just minutes later when Emily Hayward’s AP Ninja also lost one at the last fence, sending it clattering into the beautifully decorated obstacle. AP Ninja finished with three shoes and 12 faults.
Rose Alfeld and My Super Nova looked really good in their first round, just making a mistake at fence three for four faults, but probably one of the best combinations through the tricky treble line.
Samantha Morrison made the crowd gasp when she had a life going through the treble, but that was the only blip in her round, with Biarritz jumping beautifully and recording what was to be the only clear in the first round of the competition.
Young Briar Burnett-Grant and Fiber Fresh Veroana came in fresh from a win in the penultimate round of the series. The roan looked very keen to get on with the job, with Briar frequently saying “whoa, whoa” between fences. They ended up having one down in the treble and then the last two fences, to finish on 12 faults.
Tess Clark and Sinatra II looked like they might join Samantha in recording a clear, jumping beautifully under the watchful (and slightly nervous) eye of Ground Jury President Kaye Williams, Tess’s mother. Unfortunately, the last of the treble came down for the pair and they finished on 4.
Those with 12 faults and less were called back for the second round. Rails clattered consistently over the shortened course, including for one of the stand-out combinations of the competition, Clarke and Quainton Labyrinth, who had the second of double down to finish on a total of 8.
It was therefore up to Rose, Tess and Samantha to see if they could better that score. Rose and ‘Case’ gave it their all, climbing over some fences, soaring over others and recorded a clear round to the delight of the crowd, especially the South Islanders!
Tess therefore knew that she had to jump clear to at least have a chance to take the honours, but an early rail meant they had to settle in and wait to hear the calculations for the minor placings. The pair jumped well over the two days of the show, and look likely to have a lot more success in the future.
So, the pressure went on to Samantha Morrison: she knew jumping clear would seal the win, but she could afford one rail if her time was faster than Rose’s. There were some nervous spectators, with her number one cheerleader, mum Jill Morrison, being the most nervous of all. Was it pressure, or was it just not Sam’s day? Who knows, but the two rails collected meant that a Woodhill win was well out of her grasp. It went instead to an ecstatic Rose, with Clarke in second place and Sam having to settle for third.
“I tried not to put pressure on myself,” says Rose, who knew she needed a good result to take out the series. “I definitely had high hopes, but anything can happen.”
As the winner of the NZ series, Rose could take up the opportunity to represent her country in Paris for the Word Cup final, but she is unlikely to do so. She thinks that such a trip would be too early in their career but does hope to experience international competition at some point in the future. “One day definitely, but I am not sure that now is the right time. I would love to go and watch it, though!”
Rose has a strong team around her, but doesn’t have a regular coach, which in today’s environment is very unusual, with most young riders having a close association with their coach. “I don’t have a coach as such. The only coaching I have had lately is the coaching I get in squad training. I do take advantage of going to Jen Hamilton when she is in New Zealand,” she says.
Rose walks the course with friend Jesse Linton, and is happy to take his advice most of the time. “He told me to go out and ride positively, which perhaps I didn’t do in the first round.” Her boyfriend Harry McArthur is also a crucial part of the team, and his skills as a horse dentist must also be useful when you have a team of horses.
Acting as Rose’s groom for the event was another South Islander, Todd Magner, who had also had success at the show on his lovely Awatuna Jonesey. Todd’s calm approach was certainly being welcomed by Case (My Super Nova).
Lisa Alfeld, Rose’s mother, is of course a key member of the team. “We’ve done a lot of miles, but it has definitely been worth it. I’ve got a big botte of bubbly in the truck, but I didn’t put it in the fridge as I didn’t want to tempt fate!” Dad Murray was at home but was watching on live stream. Both Murray and Lisa, good horse people in their own right, have been a big part of the horse and his development. Case is out of Lisa’s St James stationbred hunter, by Corlando. Murray has been involved in the horse’s development, helping Rose break him in. The hard-working family have been involved in harness racing for many years, but show jumping is definitely taking priority now!
The Alfeld team was heading to Taupo for a first stop on the trek back to the South Island, and perhaps that bottle of champagne may have been cold by then!
Bayley’s Real Estate FEI World Cup NZ League Final: Rose Alfeld, My Super Nova 1; Clarke Johnstone, Quainton Labyrinth 2; Samantha Morrison, Biarritz 3, Tess Clark Sinatra II 4; Lucy Olphert, Eve Saint Laurent 5, Briar Burnett-Grant, Fiber Fresh Veroana 6.
Bayley’s Real Estate FEI World Cup NZ League Series: Rose Alfeld (Leeston) My Super Nova 87 points 1, Samantha Morrison (Tauranga) Biarritz 73 2, Emily Hayward (Te Awamutu) AP Ninja 64 3.