By Diana Dobson
It’s the penultimate round of the Bayleys Real Estate FEI World Cup New Zealand League in Dannevirke this week and all eyes will be on series leader Rose Alfeld (Leeston) and the very in-form Melody Matheson (Havelock North).
Each rider has won two qualifiers apiece, with Matheson sitting on a hat-trick at the Central and Southern Hawke’s Bay Showjumping and Show Hunter Championships, having won at Feilding and Taupo.
It’s tight at the top of the leaderboard, and starts to get complicated too, with just the best four scores to count for each rider. Some riders have large drop-off scores. With 20 points on offer for the win at Dannevirke each of the riders will be chasing a top result.
Alfeld, who will start her star My Super Nova, sits on 74 points, with Samantha Morrison (Tauranga), who is entered on Biarritz, on 63 and Matheson, who is in on Graffiti MH, just a point behind on 62.
Morrison has also been very consistent, and won the Waikato qualifier.
Several riders are keen to see how their mounts go in the earlier classes at the show before making a final call on their World Cup starts; however Alfeld heads into the competition happy with My Super Nova’s preparation.
“He feels fantastic and fresh,” she says. “I have brought him home for a couple of weeks to enjoy his own paddock before heading back up in the New Year.”
Morrison too says Biarritz is ready to go.
“He seems to be feeling great and we are excited to compete in the last two World Cup rounds, hopefully they both go well,” she says.
Sitting in fourth spot on the leaderboard is young gun Emily Hayward (Te Awamutu) who has both AP Ninja and Belischi HP on the card.
“Dannevirke was my first ever World Cup last year with Ninja and it went well, so I am confident it will be a good place to start for Belischi too. He is a very big, green and spooky horse but has tonnes of ability so I think he will benefit from the big open arena there,” said Hayward.
Making her much-anticipated début in the series is Taupo teen Briar Burnett-Grant.
“Finally,” says the 17-year-old. “I am allowed to start because it is the year I turn 18, I am so excited though and I feel like both Flash (Fiber Fresh Veroana) and I are ready.”
Also having a first start is Harry Feast (West Melton) aboard Double J Bouncer.
“We are all good to go,” says Feast. “It is a big step up for us but I am really looking forward to it.”
Local hopes will rest on World Cup campaigners Maurice Beatson aboard Mandalay Cove and Robert Steele on LT Holst Bernadette.
Steele is keen to put their Taupo round behind them and will be taking it carefully with the mare.
“Taupo was a bit of a disaster for us – rider error we will call it.”
He feels he was a bit too quiet coming into a double and the horse got a fright, making her wary for the rest of the round.
“This is our first World Cup season together and she has been pretty good. I am hoping the break over Christmas means we will bounce back at Dannevirke.”
Brooke Edgecombe (Waipukurau) starts another LT bred horse in LT Holst Andrea.
“She hasn’t had a break at all,” said Edgecombe. “I have kept her ticking over so she doesn’t lose fitness and have even been taking her to the race track. It should be a strong field with some good jumping.”
She’s confident course designer Roger Laplanche will deliver with his usual “tough but fair” track.
Also on the card are Helen McNaught (Taupo) aboard Ngahiwi Ned Kelly and Tess Clark (Gisborne) on Sinatra II.
Sunday’s class will be livestreamed on jxsport.tv. The New Zealand league has seven qualifiers – 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).
The final offers points-and-a-half, so all combinations will be keen to gather as many points as possible at Dannevirke.
The league winner has the opportunity to represent New Zealand at the Longines FEI World Cup Final in Paris later this year.
The leaderboard –
FEI World Cup NZ League (after five rounds): Rose Alfeld (Leeston) 74 points 1, Samantha Morrison (Tauranga) 63 2, Melody Matheson (Havelock North) 62 3, Emily Hayward (Te Awamutu) 54 4, Maurice Beatson (Dannevirke) 50 5, Brooke Edgecombe (Waipukurau) 44 6, Robert Steele (Dannevirke) and Tess Clark (Gisborne) 32 =7, Lucy Fell (Longburn) 19,9, Lily Tootill (Karaka) 13 10.
WHAT: The Bayleys Real Estate FEI World Cup Qualifier
WHERE: Central and Southern Hawke’s Bay Showjumping and Show Hunter Championships @ Dannevirke Showgrounds
WHEN: Sunday, January 7, 2018