Amanda Pottinger and Just Kidding are eyeing up their second NRM CCI3* Open National Championship title at the end of the dressage day at the Fiber Fresh National Equestrian Centre in Taupo.
The Havelock North duo are leading a very competitive field, sitting on a score of 29.2 penalty points, with Nick Brooks (Cambridge) and For Fame in second on 31.5, defending champ Emily Cammock (Canterbury) and Shaw Lee in third on 33.1 and Donna Edwards-Smith (Te Kauwhata) aboard DSE Tangolooma in fourth on 33.8.
But Pottinger, who won the title in 2016, is all too aware there is plenty to be done before the final curtain falls.
It didn’t go all Pottinger’s way in the dressage. She was mistakenly halted by judges part way through the test before being told to continue.
“I think Helen owes me a few chocolate fish after that,” she said with a laugh. “I don’t think the interruption did us any favours but we got through. I did play it very safe and it definitely wasn’t his best test.”
Just Kidding, an 11-year-old thoroughbred who is by Fusiach Pegasus, out of Gypsy Princess, had felt “a little tense” during the test.
It would be very special to Pottinger to reclaim the title.
“The first year it was a real shock to win, but this year it is what we came for . . . however, by no means is the job done.”
She’s picking the cross country to be hugely influential.
“It is fair but tough and comes thick and fast with not much let up,” said Pottinger. “There is no room for rider error.”
Donna Edwards-Smith is quick to pass the credit for Astek Guardsman leading the Bates CCI2* Championship. Edwards-Smith is riding the horse fo
r owner Chanel Griffiths who is expecting her first child in August.
“I’m reaping the benefits for all Chanel’s hard training,” said Edwards-Smith (Te Kauwhata).
The combination leads the 21-strong field on 26.7 penalty points, with Samantha Felton (Cambridge) and Ricker Ridge Sooty GNZ in second on 28.1, Bryce Newman (Bulls) aboard Bates Game Keeper third on 29.5 and Angela Lloyd (Hunua) on Lyrical rounding out the top four on 30.2.
“He was a very good boy,” said Edwards-Smith who also rode the horse at the recent Kihikihi International Horse Trial where they led the dressage but picked up 20 penalties in the cross country.
“I do rate this horse. He is absolutely beautiful.”
Astek Guardsman’s owner Griffiths is rapt. She won the horse as a two-year-old in an Astek Stud promotion that promised the chance to win ‘a horse of a lifetime’ . . . and he has proved just that for Griffiths.
“He has been really cool,” said Griffiths who trains with Edwards-Smith and Tracy Smith. “Donna has helped me throughout his jumping career and is great to get on and give him a bit of boot camp.”
The two have the perfect arrangement – Edwards-Smith helps with the horse and Griffiths takes care of the rider’s social media.
As a five-year-old Astek Guardsman won the Young Event Horse crown and has enjoyed plenty of 1* success.
The eight-year-old gelding is a Hanoverian Dutch warmblood cross who is by Kinnordy Gym Bello, out of Vienna SL.
There’s plenty to play for in the Fiber Fresh CCI1* Championship class. Dannie Lodder (Papakura) and Lexington lead the 44-strong pack with their 29.4 penalty point dressage effort, with Samantha Felton (Cambridge) aboard Ricker Ridge Riley in second on 30, Christen Lane (Pukekohe) aboard Henton Armada in third on 31.5 and Courtney Davis (Waipara) aboard Dunrobin Gancanagh in fourth on 32. Lexington is a 10-year-old Hanoverian thoroughbred cross by Limonit, out of King’s Wish.
Angela Lloyd and Raucous hold the edge in the Wairakei Resort CCN105 Championship class with their 26.9 penalty point dressage effort today. It’s a big class, with 44 chasing the honours. Lloyd and her home bred Raucous, a seven-year-old warmblood thoroughbred cross, is by Ruanuku R, out of Harleon, have a 2.3-point buffer over Kirsty Guilfoyle (Papakura) on Ash Haven Diva on 29.2, with Nick Stackpole (Howick) on Delta Duet in third on 29.4 and Lizzie Green (Cambridge) on Comanche II in fourth on 30.2.
It’s all tied up at the top of the 16-strong leaderboard in the AMS Saddlery CCI1. Denise Rushbrook (Whakatane) on Astek Gadzuks and Matthew Grayling (New Plymouth) on Henton Armani are both on 30.1 penalty points, with Rushbrook also third on Eton MVNZ on 33.9 and Megan Finlayson (Kerikeri) aboard Greensleeves in fourth on 34.7.
Grayling said the horse has been consistently cracking 70% but today fell just slightly short. He opted for the open over the championship because his wife Susan was a judge in the other class. He’s looking forward to tomorrow’s cross country, with a little trepidation.
“It looks do-able out there but we have had only two novice starts this season, so it will test him to make the distance,” he said. “He is only six and as a warmblood cross he needs a bit more practice at running faster. My job is to look after him.”
Rushbrook had hoped her two would be in the top six at the end of the dressage.
“This is a lot better than I expected,” she said. “Both their tests were cool – especially Eton’s.”
Both horses were strong cross country runners.
“The course has quite a few questions, especially for me. Eton is a technical jumper so he will be fine in the combinations while Gadzuks is a big bold jumper so there will be a few jumps there to test his mettle. Hopefully our schooling will pay off.”
Eton is a 10-year-old thoroughbred warmblood cross who is by Pico Bello, out of Madam while Astek Gadzuks is a six-year-old warmblood by Kinnordy Gym Bello, out of Belcam Angelica.
Jessica Woods’ LV Encostalot is proving to be quite a star. The Ohaupo combination are leading the 29-strong Taupo Veterinary Centre CCN105 Open class with an eye-watering 21 penalty points – 7.1 ahead of second-placed Eden Doull (Pukekohe) aboard Nobel Value, with Brea Walker (Puhoi) aboard Holy Hek in third on 29.3 and Anna Schroeder (Rolleston) aboard Waipuna Jack in fourth on 31.4.
Woods is rapt with her five-year-old Australian thoroughbred, who is by Encosta de Lago, out of Iseult. She’s had the horse for a year and just last month won the South Island Young Event Horse Championship, bringing home the best thoroughbred, top five-year-old and overall prize.
“He has come so far in that year,” she said. “He is a really brave cross country horse and has never had a fault yet.”
She had plenty of praise for course designer John Holmes too.
“He’s done a very nice job out there.”
Tomorrow is cross country day, which always has a huge influence on the leaderboard, with Sunday’s showjumping rounding out the national champs.
For full results, head to www.equestrianentries.co.nz .