New Zealand’s top showjumpers go head-to-head on Sunday chasing honours in the FEI World Cup (NZ) final with the series winner earning entry to the world final in Sweden in April.
The Continental Cars Audi Waitemata World Cup Festival at Helensville has attracted 17 quality combinations to be challenged at 1.6m height by Canadian course designer Peter Holmes, but the real battle will be with the clutch at the top of the series’ leaderboard. Taupo teen Briar Burnett-Grant leads the charge on 62 points but making a late run for the top spot is two-time qualifier winner Tegan Fitzsimon (West Melton) on 57 points, with Lily Tootill (Karaka) just behind her on 52 and a trio of riders – Melody Matheson (Hastings), Brooke Edgecombe (Waipukurau) and Maurice Beatson (Dannevirke) – on 49 points.
The final offers points-and-a-half with the complication of just the best four scores from each rider to count, meaning drop-off scores for everyone but Tegan. There is however, the added incentive of Longines watches for the best three in the series.
Both Briar and Tegan are excited to be at the top of the leaderboard, and anything else is a bonus. At just 18, Briar is the baby of the field. “I never thought we would be in the top three for the series, so am stoked,” she says, adding her feisty gelding Fiber Fresh Veroana has gone from strength to strength this season. “We are inexperienced at this height but he always tries so hard.”
She and Veroana have nabbed two seconds, a third and a fourth in their four starts this series. Briar is the first to tip her hat to the experience in the field and says there is plenty of danger from the likes of Tegan aboard Windermere Cappuccino, Claudia Hay (Tokoroa) aboard her previous Olympic Cup winner Euro Sport Centavos, Olympian Clarke Johnstone (Matangi) on Quainton Labyrinth and Fraser Tombleson (Gisborne) with Mea I, to name but a few.
Tegan enters Sunday’s final at Woodhill Sands with no expectations from the eight-year-old gelding she co-owns with breeders the Parkes Family from Windermere Farm.
“What will be will be,” she says. “He has been so consistent all season – actually right from when he was a five-year-old, stepping up to new heights so well. Even so, I didn’t expect him to do so well this season, everything is a bonus from now on.”
The South Island combination have had three starts in the series for two wins and a second. Tegan says it would be unlikely for her to travel to the world final should she win the series. “He is only eight, so the next logical step for us would be to Australia. We’re just taking it one step at a time.”
The huge travel time has meant 28-year-old Tegan has given Windermere Cappuccino the week off to freshen up leading into the final which she says can bring out his naughty side, but she’s hopeful the horse will blow all that out on the opening day of the show.
Also entered in the final is Lily Tootill on her former Olympic Cup winner Ulysses NZPH who won the series opener in October, Melody Matheson aboard Graffiti MH, Brooke Edgecombe on her mare LT Holst Andrea, Logan Massie (Dannevirke) on Intellect and Fraser Tombleson on his home-bred mare Mea I. All have been solid in their series’ starts this season and keen to finish on a high.
Emily Hayward (Te Awamutu) is entered on Belischi HM, Jasmine Sketchley (Whangarei) on her stallion Bravado Ego Z, Helen McNaught (Taupo) aboard Kiwi Bird, Tom Tarver (Kawerau) on Popeye, Danielle Maurer (Kaukapakapa) with Madam Coco, Nakeysha Lammers (New Plymouth) on her home-bred gelding Resolution, Amanda Wilson (Hikurangi) with Showtym Cassanova and Nick Brooks (Cambridge) on Versace C.
The grand finale follows a display from Vicki and Kelly Wilson on Sunday afternoon. Breast Cancer Foundation NZ is the show’s 2019 charity of choice. Event workers and volunteers will be in pink uniforms and spectators are being encouraged to also wear the favoured colour of the Breast Cancer Foundation as well as bringing gold coins for a donation.
Sunday’s Sponsors’ Charity Class sees selected riders teaming up with a show sponsor. The introduction of a joker fence comes with a $100 donation for the Breast Cancer Foundation for each rider who clears it. The winning team will have $1000 to donate to their chosen charity. The class will be held just before Sunday’s World Cup final.
Show sponsor Fiber Fresh is kindly giving each rider at the festival a bag of their Fiber Boost. Organisers have introduced an exciting new breeders championship class which has seen $20,000-plus in stallion services donated for the winners and place-getters. Top combinations from Saturday’s qualifier will return to the premier arena on Sunday following the World Cup final to battle it out for top honours.
There are still a handful of tickets available for Sunday’s high tea which can be accessed through Show Jumping Waitemata’s Facebook page. All the action from the premier arena will be live streamed on http://jxsport.tv .
FEI World Cup (NZL League) standings (after five rounds – best four to count): Briar Burnett-Grant (Taupo) 62 points 1, Tegan Fitzsimon (West Melton) 57 2, Lily Tootill (Karaka) 52 3, Melody Matheson (Hastings), Brooke Edgecombe (Waipukurau) and Maurice Beatson (Dannevirke) 49 =4, Logan Massie (Dannevirke) 44 7, Fraser Tombleson (Gisborne) 42 8, Emily Hayward (Te Awamutu) 32 9, Jasmine Sketchley (Whangarei) 27 10.
WHAT: Continental Cars World Cup Festival including the final of the FEI World Cup (NZL League)
WHERE: Woodhill Sands, Auckland
WHEN: January 12-13, 2019 – World Cup Final January 13, 2019
MORE INFO: follow Show Jumping Waitemata page on Facebook
LIVE STREAMING: http://jxsport.tv