The Puhinui International Three-day Event brings the spring eventing season to a pinnacle on 7-10 December, with horse and rider combinations from throughout the country gathering in Auckland for peak performances before taking a break from the demanding competition schedule over the festive season.
It also marks the halfway stage in the year long ESNZ Eventing series, with bonus points to be earned in the long format classes. There is added incentive for the young eventers of the future, with both the Young Rider and Junior Rider Three-day Event titles being contested at this iconic venue, overlooking the Manukau Harbour.
The top class, the Honda New Zealand CCI3* has attracted a quality field of ten combinations, and while the six horses who contested the Australian CCI4* in Adelaide last month will not be there, the line up includes Olympian and former Badminton winner Jock Paget, now the Eventing Performance Development Coach, riding Heelan Tompkins’ Snow Leopard.
Paget, based near Taupo, won the top class at Rotorua at the end of November, and said afterwards, “We are not an established partnership yet, but I stepped it up a cog today and he went well. He is ready to step up.” His own horse, Angus Blue, on whom he won the Oceania Championships at Werribee in June, is still acclimatising, Paget saying, “He is busy growing a winter coat!”
The current National Three-day Event champion, Emily Cammock from Christchurch, has both her title holding horse Shaw Lee and his stable mate Lewis entered, and Corey Wood, also a South Islander now, is bringing Pick Up Line for his first long format 3* event.
Adelaide riders Donna Edwards-Smith, Te Kauwhata, and Samantha Felton, Matangi, both have horses entered, Edwards-Smith riding Gaye McClunie’s DSE Cluny, and Felton her own Ricker Ridge Rui and Ricker Ridge Divine Right. All three are potential international horses.
The adventurous Chloe Phillips-Harris, from Paihia, who has completed the Mongol Derby amongst other unorthodox equine pursuits, rides her established star Cor-Jet, who improves with each appearance, while Bundy Philpott, Cambridge, will ride Tresca NZPH, who she is producing carefully with the benefit of her overseas experience.
The field is completed by Oceania Young Rider team member Renee Faulkner, Papakura, on Rubinstar HH, who has chosen the thrill of contesting the 3* class to challenging for the glory of the Young Rider title at 2* level. Bred to be a dressage horse, ‘Rubin’ actually prefers to jump!
One of her Oceania team mates is among the seven combinations contesting the Honda New Zealand Young Rider CCIY2* title class, Jackson Bovill, Hamilton, on Visionnaire. Bovill is mentored by Olympian Clarke Johnstone, and won the 2* class at Rotorua, so his big mare is on form.
But one to watch is Gemma Hampson on the skewbald mare Pintado Prima Rosa. They had an outstanding cross-country round at Rotorua, where they were the only combination in the 2* class to complete inside the time, despite probably being the smallest horse with the tallest rider, finishing third without penalties in either jumping phase.
The iSpy Horses CCI2* has a competitive line up of nineteen combinations, including Johnstone, from Matangi, riding Kate Woods’ Wolf Whistle II, who was withdrawn at Rotorua with a stone bruise. Hamilton solicitor Nick Brooks, also mentored by Johnstone, rides the eye-catching For Fame, on whom he won the Express Eventing at Equitana before placing second behind Bovill at Rotorua.
Larissa Srhoy is bringing Rockquest from Canterbury, having had a successful raid to the North Island earlier in the season, while former Cantabrian Madison Crowe, now an accountant in Hamilton, has both Waitangi Pinterest and Lucius GNZ entered. Diane Gilder, Auckland, returns with her handsome Australian thoroughbred Your Attorney, feeling their way back to top level after time out.
Former international Bryce Newman, now training racehorses at Bulls, has two promising thoroughbreds in Bates Our Entourage and Bates Game Keeper, and this veteran of the sport is still as competitive as ever. At the other end of the age scale, Wairarapa farrier Jake Barham brings Atlan, fresh from winning the 2* class at Clareville, Carterton, last month.
The DEVI Heating Systems CCIJ1* has seven combinations contesting the Junior title, including the current short format champion, Kate Herdson, Auckland, on Eon. She would love to make it double titles, but will have serious competition from last year’s winner, Vicki Browne-Cole, Waiuku, riding Amazing Spy, who won the 1* class at Rotorua ahead of Herdson in second place.
The current leader of the Junior Rider series, Elizabeth Wylaars on Wairoa Renegade, makes the long trip from the South Island, while Caroline Howell, from Hawkes Bay, holding second place with Telestory, will be keen to keep the pressure on hoping to regain top spot.
The Veterinary Associates CCI1* has twenty-three entrants, many being well performed riders bringing on young horses, but also some young riders on well performed horses gaining great experience for the future. One of these is Greer Caddigan, Hamilton, forging a good partnership with the former Campbell Draper horse Mr Mancini, and leading the Mitavite Young Rider series by a big margin.
Otorohanga veterinarian Cherie Jaques, who holds second spot in the Equissage Pro-Am series with Black Gem, also contests this class, as does Shannon Galloway, Hamilton, who leads the PEL Amateur Rider series with Day Walker. It will be a hotly contested competition.