Matthew Grayling has once again triumphed in the pinnacle class in New Zealand eventing, the National Three Day Championship.
The Taranaki dairy farmer steered Trudeau, owned by Winky Foley and Peter Smith, to a very popular win in the 15-strong DVS Home Ventilation CCI4*-L National Championship class. The Athens Olympian is no stranger to national titles, but it has been a while since he last won one – he previously won the CCI4*-L Wills Trophy in 2005 and 2006 with Gordon, but also has his name etched on the Picadilly Trophy as winner of the CCI3* Picadilly Trophy (Parklane Hawk in 2008) and the CCI2*-L Mamaku Trophy (Parklane Hawk in 2007).
“This is a big win for me. Every win is a good win! What a weekend – it is very nice to be back in the winners’ circle,” he said. “This is what you do it for – the national title at Taupo is pretty special. It is the pinnacle of New Zealand eventing and you come here to prove yourself.”
He said the Chris Ross-designed cross country had been as tough as you get. “People underestimate what we do in New Zealand. This test and prepares you well if you want to go overseas.”
Trudeau hadn’t had a lot of work in the build-up to the big event. “He hasn’t run since Hawke’s Bay at the end of April and only done a bit of work at home – probably only three schools over fences in that time.”
It is a real family affair, and Matthew says he looks to wife Susan for input and feedback. “I am very critical and hard on myself though. Just because you get to the other side of the fence doesn’t mean you have done a good jump. I like to teach my horses to jump for me so they can help when I need them to.”
A lot of work had gone into Trudeau, who could sometimes be “a real little firecracker”. “He is very sensitive too though, so you have to work through things carefully, which can be tough.”
Age had taught him when to push and when to pull back. He also knew a horse with 5* potential when he saw one. “I think he has enough scope for that.”
He admitted to a few nerves riding into the showjumping. Last to go, Matthew rode a very considered round, with the big grey Trudeau ever-so-lightly touching the odd fence, but everything stayed up . . . until the last. However, four faults wasn’t enough to take away the title, which he won on 36.3 penalty points. Runners-up Abigail Long (Levin) and her big chestnut Belmont Holy Smoke were graceful with their four-fault round, to finish on 42, with Monica Oakley (Taupo) and Artist in third on 44.7.
There were no clear rounds in this afternoon’s showjumping, with some combinations ruing their lot as rails fell, relegating them down the leaderboard.
DVS Home Ventilation CCI4*-L National Championship (Wills Trophy): Matthew Grayling (Taranaki) Trudeau 36.3 1, Abigail Long (Levin) Belmont Holy Smoke 42 2, Monica Oakley (Taupo) Artist 44.7 3, Abby Lawrence (Te Puke) Anonymous 47.6 4, Christen Lane (Taupo) Thunder Cat 53.5 5.
For full results, head to www.equestrianentries.co.nz