It was the showdown of the appies in the Country TV Pony Grand Prix at the Continental Cars Audi World Cup Festival, with childhood friends Ciel Butler and Parys Marshall battling it out for top honours.

Rails fell freely in the opening round of the class, held at Woodhill Sands in Auckland, until Butler (Katikati) aboard Showtym Boss came out and notched a lovely clear, followed four combinations later by Marshall (Taranaki) aboard Spot You Later.

 Butler was out first in the jump-off and while she dropped the first fence, rallied to come home with just the four on the board in 46.99 seconds.

 The pressure was on Marshall – all she needed to do was leave everything up . . . but still keep the time in mind, just in case.

 She needn’t have worried. Despite nudging the third to last fence, she and the feisty Spot You Later flew home in 43.24 seconds.

 The 16-year-old has had the pony four years, and with another season still to go in ponies, she’s eyeing more success.

 Fittingly, the first people to text the Marshalls were the Hutterds who owned the pony previously and done such a “great job” with him.

 “The plan was to go clear in the first round and worry about the jump-off later,” said Marshall, who is trained by Matthew Dickie and Jeff McVean.

 However, she always likes to walk her courses alone – and today was no different. Spot You Later can be a little spooky but thankfully got all those ‘monsters’ out of his head before the big class today.

 “He is 17 now so I try not to start him too much,” says Marshall, who ranked her win today their biggest yet – and, much to her delight, her first rug.

 “I was surprised there were only two clears but the atmosphere here is so different to what we have everywhere else,” she said.

 Lucky for her, that suits Spot You Later who shines on a busy course.

 “My heart did skip a beat when I rubbed that third to last rail but I knew I was up on time.”

She plans to head to Pony of the Year but is very much aware of the pressure cooker atmosphere the Horse of the Year Show can produce.

 “He is just an amazing pony – such a character. He is strong but manageable.”

 And he gets away with all sorts of mischief because he so special . . . and much loved.

 Results –

Country TV Pony Grand Prix: Parys Marshall (Taranaki) Spot You Later 1, Ciel Butler (Katikati) Showtym Boss 2, Tyla Hackett (Waiuku) The Dreamer 3, Sarah West (Matamata) Miss Mae West 4, Jessica Swailes (Pukekohe) Homeland Hero 5, Emma Watson (Morrinsville) Maddox Fun House 6.      

FMG Young Rider: Brayden Aarts (Pukekawa) Binverter 1, Emily Hayward (Te Awamutu) Yandoo Lady Gold 2, Lily Tootill (Karaka) Ulysses NZPH 3, Todd Magner (Hokitika) Awatuna Jonesy 4, Brayden Aarts (Pukekawa) George Jetson 5, Drew Carson (Putaruru) Winston V Driene 6. 

Purepine Shavings Seven-Year-Old: Helen McNaught (Taupo) La Riviere 1, Clarke Johnstone (Matangi) Dolly Blue 2, Jasmine Sketchley (Whangarei) Patricio Ego Z 3, Sarah Worker (Auckland) Remarkable 4, Natasha Brooks (Cambridge) Twerk 5, Danielle Maurer (Kaukapakapa) Le Bam 6. 

Mitavite Six-Year-Old: Michelle Wakeling (Wellsford) BMW Numero Uno, Rose Alfeld (Leeston) Cadenza NZPH, Annabel Francis (Darfield) Catapult Xtreme, Logan Massie (Dannevirke) Lamondo GNZ, Rosie Commons (Auckland) Lotte and Rachel Malcolm (Cambridge) Monte Carlo MVNZ =1. 

East Coast Performance Horses Five-Year-Old: Amanda Wilson (Hikurangi) Daminos TW 13 and Vicki Prendergast (Matamata) =1. 

Caledonian Holdings Amateur Rider: Chloe Van Den Boorn (Auckland) Mirrabella Piper 1, Melanie Dudding (Tuakau) Country Zena 2, Tessa Ranger (Putaruru) La Paz 3, Laura Pratt (Hamilton) Just Jess 4, Sandra Stanford-Soons (Silverdale) El Vira 5, Tom Lane (Auckland) Stationmaster 6. 

Dunstan Horse Feeds & EquiFibre Pro Amateur Rider: Jeremy Whale (Cambridge) Aldivo 2 1, Emma Gaze (Cambridge) Woodland Bug 2, Karen Riddle (Rotorua) LC Talent 3, Natasha Imeson (Hikurangi) Absolute NZPH 4, India Causebrook (Pukekohe) Westminster Rock 5, Emma Gaze (Cambridge) Kowhai Bug 6. 

Dunstan Horse Feeds & EquiFibre Junior Rider: Olivia Newsom (Tauranga) Showtym Cadet MVNZ 1, Olivia Dalton (Karaka) Bling du Rouet 2, Briar Burnett-Grant (Taupo) Fiber Fresh Casallita 3, Emma Watson (Morrinsville) Maddox Kiwi Silverkee 4, Maia Coster (Tauranga) Clearwater 5, Sharon Klijn (Mangakaramea) BMW Finale 6.