Melbourne is renowned for its varied weather and the riders in the feature CCI3* at the 2014 Melbourne International Horse Trials experienced it today. Some rode in heavy rain, others in sun and there was even one under a rainbow.
Australian Beijing Olympic silver medalist Sonja Johnson has taken the lead aboard her thoroughbred Parkiarrup Illicit Liaison, one of more than 60 former racehorses competing at the prestigious event in Werribee.
Johnson was very excited at the news she was leading. “He’s always been good at jumping, but couldn’t move, couldn’t trot. He had ADD but he was such a good jumper and I love him dearly so we have persevered. Wayne Roycroft taught him to trot; he was responsible for developing it. Harry Bolt is also so brilliant at getting me to the ring. Today he said we won’t go into the warm up arena, just straight into the main arena and that worked for us.”
The Western Australia rider leads a trio of Olympians with a score of 70.27 per cent. Johnson is followed by Sydney 2000 gold medalist Stuart Tinney riding Pluto Mio (69.33), and Sydney 2000 rider Amanda Ross on William Wordsworth (69.07).
Tinney and Pluto Mio are just 1.41 penalties in arrears, despite riding in one of the wettest parts of the day. “He was great, he held it together really well and I am so pleased with him,” Tinney said of his mount.
He says he can’t wait to ride the cross country tomorrow. “It’s a lovely course.”
Johnson, too, is keen to get on with the cross-country, and put behind her a tough round in Sydney last month.
“The cross country is supposed to be the bit that I’m good at but I really stuffed up at Sydney with a run out on both horses,” she said.
“I’m nervous, I want to get it right tomorrow. The course is great, there’s some good galloping parts and he’s really fast. I’m not going to relax until both horses are back safely, though.
“For me the toughest fence tomorrow will always be the next one I come up against until I reach those finish flags!” she said.
Amanda Ross produced a very nice test on the striking chestnut William Wordsworth, much to the delight of her large fan club at the event. She is just .29 penalties behind Tinney and four penalties ahead of the next placed horse, Visual Laughter, a very cute coloured horse ridden by Robert Palm.
West Australians are out in front across three of the four classes, with Gabrielle Pither currently leading the CCI2* and Shenae Lowings leading the CCIJ1* class. Victorian based Wilhelm Enzinger is at the top of the leaderboard in the CCI1* class.
Additional reporting: MIHT
Images below © Jane Thompson