Luke Dee had a dream start to New Zealand’s Horse of the Year Show in Hastings yesterday, winning the prestigious Norwood Gold Cup aboard his chestnut gelding Ombudsman.
The 20-year-old full time rider headed home a classy field that included current World Champion Philippe Le Jeune and several top Australian combinations.
Thirty-five started over the John Vallance-designed course, with just five going through to the jump-off. First out was Catherine Cameron aboard Campione GNZ who held up the class while he had to have a shoe replaced between rounds. The big bay flew round but dropped the wall and another fence finishing on eight faults in 49.9 seconds.
Next out was Le Jeune aboard Dunstan Kiwi Iron Mark, who last month won the National Champs with Katie McVean. Le Jeune and the chestnut were on track right to the second-to-last fence when a rail dropped, leaving them on four faults in 48.74.
Aussie Merrick Ubank guided the sometimes-tricky Aladino to a lovely clear in 49.36 ahead of Mathew Gilmour (Matangi) and BMW Leo Silver (owned by Vaughn Jefferis) who were unlucky to take the last fence.
That left the door open for Dee, who relished in the luxury of being the last to go, and made the most of his home-ground advantage.
Despite giving one fence an almighty whack, nothing hit the grass and they came home clear in 49.16 to take the honours.
It was his second win of the show – on Tuesday Dee rode Merran Hain’s Untouchable to victory in the equitation medal class.
Dee says he thought the course would be a tricky and technical one when he walked it.
“It was a very good class … and a great start! Ranger (Ombudsman) is not that good at turns but good at covering the ground.”
They were the only combination to take a very tight inside turn, which clearly paid dividends.
“I knew I had to do that if I was in with a chance of beating Merrick,” said Dee. “This is always a big class and one everyone goes out to win.. It is a real honour to win it … there are some big names on that trophy.”
Thirteen-year-old Ombudsman was bred by Maurice Beatson, and sold to Dee as a 10-year-old.
“I couldn’t ask for a better horse,” he says.
Last year the two won the Silver Fern Stakes, and have continued to impress on the national circuit. Dee puts some of that down to time spent in the United States and England in the off-season. Last winter he spent time with celebrated US trainer George Morris.
Dee is hoping to return to the US next winter, but this time he will take his horse.
Earlier in the day, Le Jeune won the 1.4m class aboard Susie Hayward’s Andretti.
Virbac Equine Norwood Gold Cup: Luke Dee (Ocean Beach) Ombudsman 1, Merrick Ubank (Australia) Aladino 2, Philippe Le Jeune (Belgium) Dunstan Kiwi Iron Mark 3, Mathew Gilmour (Matangi) BMW Leo Silver (owned by Vaughn Jefferis) 4, Catherine Cameron (Cambridge) Campione GNZ 5, Vicki Wilson (Hikurangi) Showtym Cadet MVNZ 6.
Dressage, Level 5D (title): Penny Castle (Palmerston North) BL About Time 1, Nikita Osborne (Kerikeri) Alcatraz 2, Jacqui Winspear (Auckland) JW Darjeeling 3, Penny Castle, Freespirit 4, Angela Lloyd (Hunua) Ruanuku R 5, Nicola Kitcheman (Hamilton) Fraggle Rock RE 6.
Level 4 musical freestyle (title): Julie Brougham (Palmerston North) Furst Fellini 1, Kaye Asham (Awanui) Dante MH 2, Wendi Williamson (Kumeu) Cortaflex Don Amour MH 3, Louisa Ayres (Waikanae) Playmate 4, Nicky Pope (Auckland) Saskatoon 5, Sharlene Royal (Kumeu) New World Frankie J 6.