April 2, 2008


2007 winner Clarke Johnstone and Oakley Vision.

Taranaki equestrian Heelan Tompkins will be looking to impress the New Zealand selectors at this weekend's FEI World Cup Eventing qualifier being held in conjunction with the Mitavite International Horse Trial at the Kihikihi Domain near Te Awamutu.

Tompkins is one of eight riders on the New Zealand Olympic Shortlist and has opted to base her campaign on New Zealand soil. She has chosen this weekend's FEI World Cup Eventing competition to prove she and mount Sugoi have what it takes to go to Beijing later in the year.

It will be the first time Tompkins will have ridden in the FEI World Cup class at Kihikihi. "It is certainly a new challenge to us both, but it will be an ideal competition to see how Sugoi copes with a tough international level track which is not too dissimilar from what I would expect to see at the Olympics" said Tompkins. Tompkins hopes that a good performance at Kihikihi will save her from having to travel to England to further her Olympic campaign.

There is no doubt that Tompkins' bid for Olympic selection was made tougher when the legendary Mark Todd recently announced his unexpected return to the sport after eight years in retirement. However Tompkins herself has a solid international reputation, being the best performed New Zealander at both the 2004 Athens Olympics and the 2006 World Equestrian Games at Aachen.

With two previous winners also contesting the coveted FEI World Cup title at Kihikihi this weekend, Tompkins faces some strong competition in her quest to impress the Selectors.

The 2007 winner, Otago student Clarke Johnstone, who is also one of the youngest in the field, returns on Oakley Vision after their sterling victory last year.

Matthew Grayling, also from Taranaki, has an incredible record at Kihikihi having previously won the FEI World Cup qualifier on three consecutive occasions. Sadly for Grayling, he too would have been in the eyes of the selectors this weekend, but his Olympic prospect NRM Gordon has become injured and is no longer in contention for Beijing. With NRM Gordon sidelined, Grayling will be hoping his less experienced mount NRM Ru Star will have a successful debut at FEI World Cup level.


The event has become renowned for its challenging cross country course.
Not only does a good performance this weekend set Tompkins in good stead for Olympic selection, it also opens up the possibility of competing at the FEI World Cup Eventing Final later in the year. The FEI World Cup Eventing is a linked series of 17 qualifiers which circumnavigates the globe. The Mitavite International Horse Trial is New Zealand's only qualifier and is the first in the 2008 series to be held in the southern hemisphere.

The Mitavite International Horse Trial will host over 250 competitors across four levels of competition. The event has become renowned for its challenging and beautifully crated cross country course which includes themed obstacles based around the story of Winnie the Pooh and the Hundred Acre Wood. A second water feature has also been added to the course for Saturday's cross country phase.

The cross country course will also be opened up to runners and walkers for the first time in Sunday's inaugural Newstalk ZB Fools & Horses Fun Run. The 5km route will see two-legged competitors negotiate the same logs, walls and water features that the horses would jumped the day before. The Mitavite International Horse Trial also features an extensive trade and food village, a classic car display, live music and course walks with former World Champion Vaughn Jefferis. Spectator admission is free.