There’s an air of nervous anticipation as the opening round of the FEI World Cup (NZ League) draws closer.
With no clear favourites in the 12-strong field, there are a handful popping up above the pulpit to show they’re more than serious about claiming New Zealand’s top international jumping series.
It’s a star-stacked field with previous series winners Maurice Beatson (Dannevirke) and Tegan Fitzsimon (West Melton) lining up at the Hawke’s Bay A&P Show this week to be challenged by top Australian course designer Graeme Watts. Also entered are multiple series final winner Brooke Edgecombe (Waipukurau) and last season’s final victor Sophie Scott (Palmerston North).
Missing is the 2022-2023 series winner Phillip Steiner (Tauranga) and Cassina Dior who went on to represent New Zealand at the World Cup final and are still based offshore.
Three time series winner Tegan has her very consistent Windermere Cappuccino on the card in Hawke’s Bay, and she’s keen to improve on last season. Once again the South Islander has brought her team north for an extended period with a focus on the World Cup Series.
It’s been a while since Maurice has won the series but he figures with Central Park continuing to improve, this could be his season.
“The goal is always to win,” says the Olympian who has won more Grand Prix than anyone in New Zealand with an impressive 212 to his credit.
Brooke has also been knocking on the door of a series win having twice been runner-up and twice won the final. She took LT Holst Andrea to Australia for a five week campaign in the offseason and says while it didn’t produce the results she hoped for, it has set the mare up for a good season.
“She’s come back fit and well and I think it has given us a bit of a head start on our New Zealand season,” said Brooke.
Sophie Scott is always dangerous and has Waitangi Skynet entered. The horse has started the new season with a bang, winning two Grand Prix and placing second in a third from three starts. “He’s had a good break and come in feeling really good,” said Sophie.
One to certainly watch out for will be Julie Davey (Hawke’s Bay) and her mares Just D and LT Holst Freda. While both nine-year-olds have had just a single World Cup start each, both looked completely at home at that outing and Just D won the Grand Prix in Gisborne.
Logan Massie and Bravado Ego Z has come back into the new season in fine fettle and his rider will be keen for some podium finishes this year. The chestnut stallion is no stranger to World Cups, having done his first in 2018 but not done many in the league in recent years having been offshore for a period in 2022.
Emelia Forsyth (Clevedon) and Henton Faberge are a fabulous partnership who have been doing the series since 2019 with a best effort of second in 2021.
Vicky Prendergast (Matamata) and Selena C stepped into their first World Cup in January 2022 and have done a handful since, including a top four and top five in two series’ finals.
Nakeysha Lammers (Waikato) and Balboa NZPH have only one World Cup start to their credit, as have Kathryn Loiselle (Hawke’s Bay) and Haupouri Drama NZPH.
Vicki Wilson (Hawke’s Bay) and Millionaire VWNZ round out the start list and are on debut at World Cup level.
Riders are excited to have a new course designer for the opening round in Graeme Watts. The FEI level 3 ranked designer spent last weekend designing at the Poverty Bay A&P Show and said those who made the trip to Gisborne would be better prepared for Hawke’s Bay. He’s always impressed with the quality of both horse and rider on this side of the Tasman but it has been a while since he’s been here designing.
The winner of the series has the opportunity to represent New Zealand at the world final in Riyadh in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in late April.
The New Zealand league is run over four qualifiers and the final, with the best four results from each rider to count to their final series tally. The opener is on Friday afternoon in Hawke’s Bay, followed by Waikato on November 2, the Christmas Classic at Taupo on December 16, Dannevirke on January 6, and the final hosted by Waitemata Showjumping at Woodhill Sands on January 14.
Story by Diana Dobson – 18 October 2023
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