By Diana Dobson
Melody Matheson only ever starts a class when she thinks her beautifully bred Graffiti MH has a chance of winning.
While that doesn’t always happen, it proved right on the money on Saturday night in the Bayleys Real Estate Premier League Series FEI World Cup Qualifier at the Feilding I A&P Show at Manfeild.
Matheson and the eight-year-old Hanoverian mare Graffiti MH cruised to victory in the fourth of seven World Cup classes.
The victory was all the more special as co-owner Angela Miller was there to help Matheson warm-up. The other owner – and breeder – is Judith Matthews of Matthews Hanoverian.
“It’s pretty good (to win), when you consider I have had her since she was five so it is nice taking a horse all the way up (the grades),” said 23-year-old Matheson, who has recently moved to Havelock North.
It is the first World Cup qualifier the combination has won, having placed fourth and ninth in their two previous starts. This is the horse’s first season at World Cup level.
“I was just trying to go clear in the opening round, and not worry too much about time,” said Matheson. “It was pretty much the same for the second too, but I got a bit close to the start of the double and had that down. I did feel the pressure – while I had a couple of rails in hand, it’s always there.”
She felt the mare was very good in the first round, but a little unsettled in her second.
“But she loves her jumping, and that is the main thing. I don’t enter her unless I think she is up to winning a class. She can be quite hot, but as a big horse, I think that is nice.”
Matheson praised the Gary Sinclair-designed course.
“I was glad I watched Maurie (Beatson) go before me to figure out what to do from the first line double to the oxer.”
She also had a little extra help too, from Sue Thompson and Butch Thomas.
“I was on the phone before and between rounds to them. They were watching from Hawke’s Bay and gave me some pointers. I have had a few lessons from Butch but unfortunately he is heading back to the States before the Young Horse Show. He is a great help.”
She also commented on the camaraderie at the show.
“I feel it was a great atmosphere today and everyone was willing to help each other out.”
Matheson, who is in her final year of studying finance and economics, had planned to drive home after the class but opted instead to stay over.
“I have an assignment due on Sunday that I haven’t done!”
In the opening round Maurice Beatson (Dannevirke) and Mandalay Cove were out first, and gathered eight faults in 92.85 seconds. Next to go was Matheson and Graffiti MH who were all clear but picked up a single time fault for their 98.22 second effort. Emily Hayward (Te Awamutu) and AP Ninja had 12 faults in 94.25 seconds, while Samantha Morrison (Tauranga) and Biarritz picked up a total of 14 faults in 100.89 seconds. Beatson was eliminated aboard his second mount Schimmel Warrior.
The second round saw four combinations return. First out was Morrison who added another eight to come home with 22 faults over the two rounds, in 59.48 seconds. Hayward added four more, to finish on 16 faults in 58.18 seconds. Beatson added five to sit on 13 faults in 66.63 seconds, leaving all the pressure on Matheson, who added six to finish on seven faults in 71.41 seconds.
The New Zealand league has six qualifiers and the final – Hawke’s Bay (October 20), Waikato (November 7-12), Hawera (November 17-19), Feilding (December 1-2), Taupo (December 14-17), Dannevirke (January 5-7) and the final at Waitemata (January 9-14).
Just the four best rounds will count for each rider.
The World Cup is highest-ranked series run in New Zealand, and always attracts the cream of the crop, with the overall winner having the opportunity to represent the country at the Longines FEI World Cup Final in Paris next year.
Bayleys Real Estate Premier League Series FEI World Cup Qualifier: Melody Matheson (Havelock North) Graffiti MH 1, Maurice Beatson (Dannevirke) Mandalay Cove 2, Emily Hayward (Te Awamutu) AP Ninja 3, Samantha Morrison (Tauranga) Biarritz 4.