With his impeccable record in the age-group series, the smart money going into the Seven-year-old Horse of the Year would certainly have been on Windermere Cappuccino.
With Christchurch rider Tegan Fitzsimon, the beautifully-bred gelding (Corofino II/Vespa/Voltaire II) took out the 5YO series two seasons ago, backed that up with the 6YO series crown last season, and currently sits in a close second place in the Purepine 7YO series. But there was a star-studded line-up in the 7YO class at the Land Rover Horse of the Year Show, and certainly Werner Deeg’s course was going to take quite some jumping.
The dimensions of the premier arena, and his clever track design, meant that the clock became very influential; nearly half of the 38 starters were unable to get inside the time allowed in the first round.
Tegan and Windermere Cappuccino were out early, and posted an immaculate clear; every fence met on a beautifully forward stride. It was very obvious that they were going to be hard to beat, and though combination after combination did their best, we had to wait almost to the end before the second double clear came, from Robert Steele and his plucky little grey mare Delta Blue (Littorio/Blue Bird).
In between, three riders had the special agony of jumping clear but with a single time fault: Clarke Johnstone on his family’s imported mare Dolly Blue (Diarado/Chance for Ever), Alex Loiselle on Bandito NZPH (Consul de la Vie Z/Manon des Souches), and Lucy Fell on the spunky Faratona STS (Appleton DHU/Arabella).
Faults were sprinkled almost all around the course, though the first of the related lines, a vertical into the sunray double, collected the most scalps, followed by the airy pink treble combination right at the end.
Tegan and ‘Vollie’ had a long, hot wait to see if there’d even be a jump-off, but came in as cool as you like, and despite a worrying moment when he slipped slightly in one corner, once again didn’t look like touching a pole, coming home clear in a time of 49.29 seconds.
It was up to Robert to beat that, and the Hawke’s Bay local certainly wasn’t taking the steady clear option, slicing corners and fairly galloping across the arena. He was almost a second faster – but had paid for that with a rail at the oxer in the sunray double.
So, it was a very well-deserved win to Tegan, who beamed with delight as she thanked the horse’s breeders, the Parkes family of Blenheim. “He’s pretty special; I’m so lucky to have the ride on him.”
Third place went to NZPH stable rider Alex Loiselle, as the fastest of those on one penalty, fourth to Lucy and fifth to Clarke. Catherine Cameron was sixth, as the fastest of the four four-faulters, riding Kingslea Couture (Lansing/Kiwi Courage).