The spectacular and exciting Land Rover Horse of the Year Eventing has seen changes in the ESNZ Eventing Super League, but Samantha Lissington (nee Felton) has retained the lead with Ricker Ridge Rui, her sixth place at Hastings enough to keep her ahead of the winner, Amanda Pottinger on Just Kidding, in the series.
Pottinger, from Havelock North, led after Thursday’s dressage in the premier arena, but by the narrowest of margins, with Madison Crowe on Waitangi Pinterest a mere 0.1 of a point behind on 28.1 penalties. Visiting international Tim Price held third position on Lissington’s Ricker Ridge Escada with 29.4 penalties.
Friday’s showjumping brought about changes, with both Pottinger and Price having a fence down, while 25 year old Crowe, a qualified accountant who has retired to ride full time, jumped a clear round on her mare to take the lead. She said, “I’m thrilled, we had a life at the triple bar, but she tried her best.”
Chris Ross’s highly acclaimed cross-country course was to shake the order up even more, with time being the essence on a track which weaves through and around arenas and trade stands on the picturesque show-grounds. Many fences were designed to echo those at Land Rover Burghley (UK), familiar to Price, who was the 2018 winner.
He appeared to have formed a good partnership with Escada, showing his ability on a borrowed horse, but a small misunderstanding at the leaf pit combination in the trees near the end of the course resulted in an abrupt stop, which left them in seventh place overall, having completed with the third fastest time of the day despite the hiccup.
Crowe gave it her best shot and was again thrilled with her mare, completing with 7.6 time penalties, and saying, “We are both inexperienced at this level, but she went way better than I expected. It is only her fourth 4* start, but she is such s trooper.”
Pottinger, who was runner up at Adelaide CCI5*-L in November with Just Kidding, was having their first major start since, but showed the ability which saw them place second across the Tasman, producing the fastest time of the day with two time penalties, to take the win on a score of 34 penalties to Crowe’s 35.7 penalties.
Blyth Tait, on another catch ride, Chloe Phillips-Harris’s Cor Jet, also showed his skill with a great round for 12.8 time penalties and second place overall, rising from twelfth after the dressage with a clear showjumping round to be sixth going into the cross-country.
He said afterwards, “I couldn’t have had a better catch ride, Chloe has done a great job training him, I just had to kick and steer,” which is an under statement of course. Asked about being nervous watching, Phillips-Harris said, “It was fantastic watching, he looked as happy with Blyth riding him as he feels when I ride him. He loves it.”
Nick Brooks made a huge leap up the standings with For Fame, from twentieth after the dressage to fourth overall, with a stunning cross-country round, the second fastest with 5.2 time penalties. Bundy Philpott also rose dramatically from fifteenth after dressage to be fifth with Tresca NZPH.
The presence of top internationals competing on quality horses undoubtedly added to the excitement, so credit is due to Lissington, who made three horses available for both Tim and Jonelle Price and Jock Paget, and to Phillips-Harris. The Prices, regarded as the “power couple” of international eventing, were brought out by a Hawkes Bay firm, The True Honey Co.
ESNZ EVENTING SUPER LEAGUE
Standings after eight events:
Samantha Lissington (Matangi), Ricker Ridge Rui, 105 pts; Amanda Pottinger (Havelock Nth), Just Kidding, 92 pts; Madison Crowe (Hamilton), Waitangi Pinterest, 84 pts; Donna Edwards-Smith (Te Kauwhata), DSE Cluny, 81 pts; Nick Brooks (Cambridge), For Fame, 54 pts; Sam Lissington, RR Divine Right, 51 pts.