This weekend’s Puhinui Three-day Event marks the end of the spring eventing season and the half way stage in the ESNZ Eventing series.
It is a valuable event for riders aspiring to make the top of their series, as double points are earned at three-day events (CCIs).
The Super League class, the Honda NZ CCI3*, will provide keen competition as no horse and rider combination has yet scored twice at this elite level. Six of the eight competitors entered already have points in the League, which currently has three joint leaders, so the challenge is to establish superiority before the summer break.
The 2013 Eventer of the Year and the winner of the 2012-13 Bell Tea Super League, Simon Gordon and his grey thoroughbred Fletch.com, like to start their competition year slowly, but will be pulling out all the stops at the Puhinui Reserve in an effort to overtake their Trans-Tasman team mates.
Last year’s Puhinui winner, Ashleigh McKinstry and her part Kaimanawa Pioneer Makokomiko, have missed work due to injury, so will not be defending their title. They went on to place second in the Super League last year, in line with the history that sees the winner at Puhinui finish in the top three in the League. The final event is the NRM CCI3* at Taupo in May.
The National One-day Event champions, Angela Lloyd and her thoroughbred mare Song, have not competed since returning from Christchurch where they won the title last month, so will be freshened up and ready to go. They are one of the co-leaders in the Super League, so a good performance could seal a top spot for them.
Canterbury farrier Brent Jury has resumed the ride on his giant Grosvenor gelding, SE Big, as current rider Sophie Wigley has broken her leg. “Big” loves the open space at Puhinui, and has performed well there in the past, making the long distance of the three-day cross-country course look easy.
Former international Matthew Grayling, a Taranaki dairy farmer, rides Henton Executive, who is new to this level, but has the most experienced rider in the field to help him, while Trans-Tasman team reserve Dannie Lodder on Petra Eatson’s Moochi is sure to set a cracking pace, as they continue to improve in all three phases of this demanding sport.
The CCI3* dressage is on Friday afternoon, Saturday is cross-country day, and the showjumping finale takes place on Sunday afternoon, following a horse inspection in the morning.