By Diana Dobson
Briar Burnett-Grant is hopeful she’ll be able to have tomorrow off school after her historic win in the Olympic Cup this afternoon.
The 17-year-old from Taupo was the queen of cool on Fiber Fresh Veroana in a nail-biting jump-off against the very in-form Clint Beresford (Aus) aboard Emmaville Jitterbug. Thousands packed into the Hawke’s Bay Showgrounds in Hastings to watch the curtain come down on six days of equestrian excellence.
Twenty-three started the class, with just Beresford, Burnett-Grant and defending champ Lily Tootill (Karaka) on Ulysses NZPH going all clear. Ten combinations on four faults and less came back for the second round over the Werner Deeg (Ger) designed course.
Clears were a little more forthcoming in the second with Beresford, Burnett-Grant, Stuart Jenkins (Aus) on Fairview Aliquidam and Brooke Langbecker (Aus) on Quintago I all coming home clean although some were carrying faults.
Beresford was first out in the jump-off and thought he had done enough.
“It’s always hard being first out,” said the 25-year-old farrier and rider, who won the Silver Fern Stakes earlier in the show. “Briar was better on the day and she absolutely deserved it.”
Burnett-Grant was rapt with her efforts in her first-ever Olympic Cup start.
“Clint definitely had a spotless round. I just came in thinking I have got to be clear and cut tighter corners. The whole family are here – mum, dad and all my sisters . . . it is just so special.”
She heaped praise on her coach Jeff McVean who “got me to where I am”.
“This just means so much to me. I seriously contemplated not starting him this morning . . . he is such a good horse and is only nine. There are just no words! Flash was just amazing . . . I just love him. I just never expected to win.”
At 17, the youngest to have won the Olympic Cup, there was no chance of a glass of bubbles to celebrate but she was hopeful mum Karen would let her have a sleep in and a day off from school. Her father Dave said he was incredibly proud of his youngest daughter.
Burnett-Grant was presented the Olympic Cup by the first-ever winner of the cup, Peter Holden, with Equestrian Sports New Zealand patron Jennifer Millar.
The 2018 show marked the end of an era too for long time ring programmer Ray Ward-Smith.
“It’s just got bigger and bigger over the years,” he said, “but it is something I am a bit passionate about.”
Ward-Smith, a former national president, has been involved with 34 Horse of the Year Shows, and was part of the drive to move the event from Auckland.
“We decided to open it up to the regions, but it was fitting it came back to the home of the Equestrian Federation in Hawke’s Bay – this is where it all started.”
Olympic Cup: Briar Burnett-Grant (Taupo) Fiber Fresh Veroana 1, Clint Beresford (Aus) Emmaville Jitterbug 2, Stuart Jenkins (Aus) Fairview Alquidam and Brooke Langbecker (Aus) Quintago I =3, Lily Tootill (Karaka) Ulysses NZPH, Lisa Cubitt (Cambridge) Matawai Sentana and Tom Tarver-Priebe (Kawerau) Popeye =5, Tegan Fitzsimon (Christchurch) Double J Monarch and Katie Laurie (Aus) On the Point Sandy =8, Fraser Tombleson (Gisborne) Mea I 10.