Grace Percy rides Kiwi Spirit to win the Premier Stakes, Land Rover Horse of the Year 2020, HB A&P Showgrounds, Hastings, Hawke’s Bay, Saturday, March 14, 2020 Credit: KAMPIC / Sarah Lord

Glenorchy has a new star in its midst with 23-year-old Grace Percy blitzing the Premier Stakes field aboard her 17-year old horse Kiwi Spirit.

They had a few lives in the opening round of the class, scrambling over the UltraMox, but were all business in the second. Twenty-two started the first round with just the top eight coming back for the second round over the Werner Deeg-designed course. The German removed fences and opened up the Premier Arena including his signature big run into the last. Six combinations carried four penalties through with Sally Steiner (Tauranga) aboard Cartoon NZPH and Grace on clean slates in the class that is also part of the Equissage Horse Grand Prix Series.

Tegan Fitzsimon (West Melton) and Campari opened the second with a steady clear jumping round but picked up a single time penalty. The next three combinations all added at least four or more to their tallies. Daniel Webb (Hunterville) and Centaur left everything in its cups but also picked up a single time penalty to join Tegan on five penalties but with a slightly better effort on the clock. Last year’s winner Nakeysha Lammers (New Plymouth) aboard Balboa NZPH went clear to finish on four penalties from the two rounds.

It was then down to the two clears to hold their lines. Sally was first out and despite a life towards the end of the course finished with clear jumping but two time penalties. All the pressure in the world rested on Grace and Spirit who rode a stunning clear to bag the biggest win of their careers. Her plan was to go for the clear but her competitiveness soon kicked in and she was flying along. “I knew the time was tight and he can be a bit slow.”

“I am overwhelmed,” she said. “What just happened out there?” To be fair, there were plenty of other more preferred combinations in the field but none could replicate the efforts of the South Islander who won, for her efforts, the Tom Gadsby Memorial Trophy.

“He is just amazing,” said Grace of Spirit who only started Grand Prix this season, winning two and placing in the other two. “This is just unreal for me and I didn’t expect to win at all.”

She has had the gelding since he was 12. “He is a late bloomer and was my junior rider horse. He may be a bit of a weirdo, but I do love him. While he can be spooky, he shines in the ring.”

Ringside to watch her win were her parents Anne and Stuart who have quite different ways of dealing with the pressure of competition. Anne needs to be alone and watches from afar while dad prefers the grandstand. Both were incredibly proud of their daughter.

The family live on 65,000 acres where they manage stations owned by Ngai Tahu. “It is the most beautiful place in the world to train and live but the worst for travel to shows,” says Anne.


Results –


Premier Stakes 1.4m-1.5m (part of the Equissage Horse Grand Prix Series): Grace Percy (Glenorchy) Kiwi Spirit 1, Sally Steiner (Tauranga) Cartoon NZPH 2, Nakeysha Lammers (New Plymouth) Balboa NZPH 3, Daniel Webb (Hunterville) Centaur 4, Tegan Fitzsimon (West Melton) Campari 5, Clarke Johnstone (Matangi) Versace C 6, Laura Hilhorst (Cambridge) LC Underberg 7, Kathryn Van Tuyl (Palmerston North) Centavino 8.


By Diana Dobson

14 March 2020