Olympic riders Clarke Johnstone and Jonathon Paget head a star studded field at this weekend’s Puhinui Three Day Veterinary Associates 4* event. Johnstone brings back last year’s winner Aces High in an attempt to take the prestigious title again and for the fourth time, having won previously in 2014 with Balmoral Sensation, and in 2008 with Orient Express. “Aces High has improved a lot and he’s feeling a lot better”, he said of the 11 year old thoroughbred. Johnstone has given his star performer Balmoral Sensation the weekend off but with both horses in top form and already qualified for Tokyo 2020 he has a good chance of making the New Zealand Olympic team. He also has three other rides in different classes over the weekend.
Course designer Tich Massey from Hunua returns to Puhinui after a two year gap to the produce the top courses and Johnstone says he’s looking forward to riding Tich’s new cross country track. “I always enjoy his courses and Tich and Puhinui go hand-in-hand.”
Newly appointed ESNZ High Performance General Manager Jonathan Paget steps back up to top level with the unusually named Green Eggs and Hammer who contests the 4* level for the first time. “It’s a cool horse which is a bit tricky but (I’ll) be doing my best for where we are at – who knows what could happen this weekend?” Clarke Johnstone formerly owned the horse and expects Jock could be a threat, “it’s a fast horse, and could be very competitive”, he said.
The 16 strong 4* field also contains 4 other former winners, including the 2017 victors Bundy Philpott and Tresca NZPH, and riders, Matthew Grayling, Christen Lane(Hayde), and Heelan Tompkins. From the South Island come Emily Cammock and Shaw Lee, and from Hawke’s Bay Amanda “Muzi” Pottinger has two rides, Just Kidding and The Comedian. Another rider to watch is Madison “Maddy” Crowe with Waitangi Pinterest. The pair have been in good form this spring with a win in the 4* short event at Taupo 6 weeks ago. Maddy has just ended her time based with Clarke and moved to her own property. She will no doubt be trying to beat her former master!
The New Zealand Three Day Event Young Rider and Junior Rider titles will also be decided this weekend from the 3* and 2* classes. Last year’s 2* winners Ella Morshuis and World Famous have again made the long trek up from Mosgiel, this time aiming to take the Junior title, while Pukekohe rider Alena Dorotich will be aiming for the Young Rider title after being the leading Young Rider in the 3* in 2019.
Over two hundred combinations will face the three day event starting on Friday, across 5 different levels, as well as 12 future stars of the sport in the Groupe France Elevage / EquiBreed NZ Young Event Horse class for 4,5 and 6 year old horses. On Friday the riders of the future get their time to shine when 70 combinations from more than 20 secondary and intermediate schools across Auckland compete in the Auckland Schools Eventers Team Challenge.