Melody Matheson’s careful planning about where to start in the Main-Events University Series has seen her notch a run-away victory.
It’s the first time the 24-year-old Hastings rider has won the series but she’s no stranger to national success having taken out the Seven-Year-Old Series (2016-2017) and Eight-Year-Old crown (2017-2018) with her well-performed mare Cortaflex Graffiti MH.
Her planning around where to do the University Series paid dividends with four premier wins from her six starts. “It worked out well and because I was well placed I did HOY because I knew if I did well there the series would be mine,” she said. Most of the classes were done on Cortaflex Illusion SSH (owned by Nicole McGee) with a couple aboard Cortaflex Graffiti MH (owned by Angela Miller and Judith Matthews). “Illusion is a very nice and easy horse to have at our barn.”
But Melody’s season didn’t all go smoothly. Her star Graffiti was a little muscle sore early on and she struggled to find exactly what was wrong before calling in horsewoman Vicki Wilson to help out. A respiratory problem meant the mare wasn’t herself for the last day at Takapoto Estate, so Melody opted not to start her and give her a bit of a break before HOY. “I wasn’t even sure I would be able to compete at HOY or not.”
But the Olympic Cup was on her radar. “I hadn’t really ridden her in the lead up but rode her on the Thursday before the Silver Fern Stakes and she was pretty frisky. We did the Silver Fern and placed fifth after taking the last rail in the first round – frustratingly it was my rail as I tipped the jump stand with my foot.”
The Olympic Cup almost produced a fairytale ending for Melody, but she was still ecstatic to finish second. “I was super happy to be clear in the first round because that’s often where we struggle, so once I was clear I knew we would go well in the second and third. Any one of us (Melody, Emily Hayward or Tegan Fitzsimon) could have won the class. Tegan had the disadvantage of having to go first then me with Em last. I am happy we jumped three clear rounds.”
Melody is in the final countdown to completing her Bachelor of Business degree extramurally through Massey University. Doing it part time has been a struggle and taken her six-and-a-half years but she’s happy to almost have it ticked off.
The series win rounds out a solid season for Melody who also placed fourth in the FEI World Cup (NZ) Series, second in the ESNZ Premier League and second in the EquiBreed VDL Top Ranking Mare.
The University Series has three times been won by Chloe Hansen (nee Akers) and twice by Rebecca Porter. Todd Magner won it last year.
In the grand final, Olivia Brown (Ashley Downs) and RH Kukumoa were the winners, as the fastest four faulter in the opening round with Bailey Rutter (Balclutha) and Henton Serenade second and Brigitte Smith (Taihape) aboard HR Lanardo third.
By Diana Dobson
Main-Events University Series:
1st Melody Matheson (Massey University/Hastings) 108 points
2nd Brigitte Smith (Massey University/Taihape) 84 points
3rd Emelia Forsyth (University of Waikato/Clevedon) 72 points
4th Bailey Rutter (Massey University/Otago) 54 points
5th Ike Baker (Massey University/Hawke’s Bay) 50 points
6th Kaitlin Feast (University of Canterbury/Christchurch) 48 points
Main-Events University Series Grand Final:
1st Olivia Brown (Ashley Downs) RH Kukumoa
2nd Bailey Rutter (Balclutha) Henton Serenade
3rd Brigitte Smith (Taihape) HR Lanardo
4th Ike Baker (Hawke’s Bay) Vidal NZPH