Following his all the way win in the Australian International Three-day Event at Adelaide over the weekend, Clarke Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation have left the rest in their wake in the ESNZ Eventing Super League. Earning double points for the CCI4* rated event, and already leading the points table, they have now opened up what looks like an unassailable lead.
However “Ritchie”, now dubbed The Snowman by international media, is likely to be evented sparingly for the rest of the competition year, which ends at the NRM National Three-day Event at Taupo in May. The 2018 World Equestrian Games at Tryon, North Carolina, in September, is their goal now.
The next leg of the Super League is the Honda CCI3* at the Puhinui International Three-day Event in Auckland on 8-10 December, where the top combinations will be trying to close the gap a little, including a contingent from the South Island.
Meantime Clarke will be one of 350 competitors at the Bay of Plenty Horse Trials at Rotorua this coming weekend, where he rides Kate Wood’s Wolf Whistle II in the Dunstan CIC2* class, which has attracted a strong entry of 39, including former World and Olympic champion Blyth Tait.
Home for the northern hemisphere winter, Blyth is riding his semi-retired international horse Xanthus III, who returned to New Zealand early this year. He is preparing Xanthus for the Puhinui Three-day Event, “just for fun,” but it will be valuable for riders here to measure themselves against a horse and rider who have competed at top level in Europe.
There is an array of experience in the class, from Junior Riders through to veteran internationals producing young horses, as well as the riders back from Adelaide on their up and coming horses. Members of the Oceania Young Rider team and the Future Potential Recognition, Talent Development and Talent ID squads will also be taking part.
A CNC2* Plus class, comprising 3* dressage and showjumping and 2* cross-country, is also being run, which sees 11 well performed 3* combinations having their final run before Puhinui. Jock Paget, the Eventing Performance Development Coach, now based near Taupo, will ride Heelan Tompkins’ Snow Leopard in this class, Heelan having recently given birth to her second child.
Jock’s own horse, Angus Blue, on whom he won the Oceania Championship at Werribee in June, is “busy growing a winter coat” so is being given time to acclimatise before resuming competition. Others to watch are Amanda Pottinger on Just Kidding, likely to lead after the dressage, and Samantha Felton with two rides, Ricker Ridge Escada and Ricker Ridge Rui.
All classes at the event are eligible for the ESNZ Eventing series, with the Equissage Pro-Am series particularly interesting after the South Island Three-day Event, with mainlanders holding two of the top three spots. Otorohanga veterinarian Cherie Jaques will be trying to regain top spot with Black Gem, who was “not right” at Arran Station when eliminated in the showjumping.
The Mitavite Young Rider series is also being keenly contested with the top two well clear of the rest, and both competing at Rotorua. Greer Caddigan on Mr Mancini, formerly ridden by Campbell Draper, and Jeffrey Amon on the inexperienced JA Take A Shot, will be looking for points in what is becoming a match race to win this series.
ESNZ EVENTING SUPER LEAGUE
Current standings: Clarke Johnstone, Matangi, Balmoral Sensation, 102 pts; Samantha Felton, Matangi, Ricker Ridge Rui, 34 pts; Donna Edwards-Smith, Te Kauwhata, DSE Cluny, 32 pts; Emily Cammock, Christchurch, Shaw Lee, 32 pts; Andy Daines, Kumeu, Spring Panorama, 30 pts; Abby Lawrence, Te Puke, Charlton Yamani, 30 pts.