The revamped series is appropriately supported by HSBC 'the world's local bank', and the Mitavite International Horse Trial can boast the unique honour of not only hosting New Zealand's only qualifier, but the very first of nine to be held around the world this year. At the beginning of May, the series then moves to Sydney (AUS) before a summer campaign of Northern hemisphere events in Europe, America and Canada. Minsk (BLR) in July will be the most Northern qualifier. At the end of the qualifying series, the top ranked riders will be entitled to take part in the HSBC FEI World Cup Eventing Final in Poland.
Hosting a HSBC FEI World Cup Eventing qualifier has seen the prize pool at this weekend's event at Kihkihi increase to $70,000, an unprecedented amount for the sport in New Zealand. The substantial prize pool, coupled with chance to earn a place at the Polish final, has attracted a large field of 20 combinations, including two top Australian competitors Shane Rose (New South Wales) and Megan Jones (Victoria).
Both Rose and Jones represented Australia at the Beijing Olympic Games where they collected a team silver medal. Jones also narrowly missed a podium finish in the individual Olympic competition when her horse knocked the last rail of the concluding show jumping round. They still finished a very credible fourth overall. Both Rose and Jones are bringing their Olympic mounts to Kihikihi, All Luck and Kirby Park Irish Jester respectively.
The New Zealand contingent is led by last year's winner Heelan Tompkins (Taranaki) aboard Sugoi, a performance which led to their selection for Beijing. Like her Australian counterparts, Tompkins competed at the Beijing Olympics. Runner up at the 2008 qualifier, Anne-Marie Styles (Auckland) has two chances with mounts As You Like It and Opera Groove. Jonathan Paget and Clifton Promise, a former Australian, will also be a leading contender after a convincing win recently at Hastings's Horse of the Year Show. Also entered are previous qualifier winners Matthew Grayling (Taranaki) and Clarke Johnstone (Otago).
The Mitavite International Horse Trial starts on Friday (April 10) with the Dressage phase, followed on Saturday with the Cross Country and Sunday with the Show Jumping.
"There is a host of additional entertainment and activities including a large trade and food village, cross country course walks with former World Champion Vaughn Jefferis, the Newstalk ZB Fools & Horses Fun Run and the SKYCITY Classic Car Picnic" said event spokesperson Bevan Houlbrooke.
Spectator entry to the Kihikihi Domain over Easter Weekend is free.