By Rebecca Harper
It was a dream season of firsts for Taupo rider Briar Burnett-Grant and her feisty Fibre Fresh Veroana, who ended the season on a high with victory in the Bayleys Real Estate Premier League Series grand final, clinching the overall series title in the process.
Coming into the final Briar, 17, was in second place in the series standings, but with leading combination Rose Alfeld and My Super Nova not starting at finals the door was open for her to take the title.
Coming off the back of a fantastic win in the Olympic Cup at Horse of the Year, Briar certainly had form to pull it off.
“I had thought about it (the series win) before I went into the class and I knew I had to come first or second to win the series.”
With eight faults in the opening round, Briar saw the title slipping away, but a gutsy clear second round was enough to take the class. “I didn’t go as fast as I could have because I was trying to be clean.” It was a tactic that paid off, as she was the only clear in the second round.
It was a season of firsts for the talented young rider, who had her first World Cup win in her first World Cup start at Dannevirke, Olympic Cup victory in her first attempt at the class, and now, her first Premier League Series title.
“It’s been a very good season. I wasn’t expecting this type of season at all. He’s not that experienced, I’ve had him since he was seven and we did the seven-year-olds and worked our way up to Young Rider. I was thinking maybe this would be a good Grand Prix season but he just went from strength to strength.”
Next season her goal is to win the World Cup series.
Fibre Fresh Veroana, or Flash as he is known at home, is a nine-year-old gelding by Indoctro, out of a mare called Strawberry.
“He’s quite quirky. When I first got him I think he had only been to a couple of shows in his life. I went and tried him and fell in love. A lot of people said ‘why did you buy him, he’s so crazy’ but we have a bond. He might be crazy but he has the biggest heart. We did a lot of work over winter for control.”
She laughs when asked about some of his victory laps, which can look slightly wild. “Victory laps are his time, he loves them.”
Briar turned out two of her horses before series finals but also bought her five-year-old, Fibre Fresh Delphine, to Masterton, finishing fifth equal in the East Coast Performance Horses Five-Year-Old Series. She also held on to sixth place overall in the FMG Young Rider Series, despite not starting in the final.
She wanted to thank her coach, Jeff McVean.
Bayleys Real Estate Premier League Series Grand Final: Briar Burnett-Grant (Taupo) Fiber Fresh Veroana 1, Tegan Fizsimon (Christhurch) Double J Monarch 2, Helen McNaught (Taupo) Kiwi Bird 3, Lucy Olphert (Bay of Plenty) Eves Saint Laurant 4, Steffi Whittaker (Canterbury) Eros K 5, Brooke Edgecombe (Waipukurau) LT Holst Andrea 6.
Bayleys Real Estate Premier League Series: Briar Burnett-Grant (Taupo) Fiber Fresh Veroana 133 points 1, Rose Alfeld (Christchurch) My Super Nova 124 points 2, Emily Hayward (Te Awamutu) AP Ninja 83 points 3, Samantha Morrison (Tauranga) Biarritz 64 points 4, Melody Matheson (Hawke’s Bay) Graffiti MH 60 points 6.