Stuart Tinney wins Aust International horse trials

November 15, 2009

A clean jumping round sealed victory for Stuart Tinney and Vettori in the Australian International 3-Day Event, with Megan Jones filling both second and third placings.

Tinney, from New South Wales, finished with 65.80 penalties and still had a rail in hand over Jones on Kirby Park Allofasudden (70.10). Kirby Park Irish Jester, Jones's team horse, was third with 83.50.

Stuart Tinney and Vettori on the cross-country. © Franz Venhaus
Tinney's win in the CCI four-star follows a hotly contested competition with less than one time penalty separating Tinney and Jones at the close of yesterday's cross-country. Only 16 of the original 31 starters completed the event, with 15 being eliminated or retiring during the competition.

The Australian team of Tinney and Jones and fellow Olympians Wendy Schaeffer and Sonja Johnson, took back the Trans-Tasman challenge trophy that they lost to the New Zealanders in 2007.

New Zealand's Clarke Johnstone improved throughout the competition on Orient Express to finish sixth overall on 93.10, with Jenna Mahoney and Santos eighth on 94.60, dropping back in the rankings after incurring time faults and taking two rails in the showjumping. Australian-based Kiwi Blair Richardson and the relatively inexperienced Spend Up were next in ninth place on 94.90. Spend Up dropped three jump rails and incurred three time faults, robbing the combination of a top four finish.

"They are absolutely thrilled, and we are really excited about the future of eventing with horses and riders like these," said Erik Duvander, NZ Eventing Team Coach.

"Clarke's horse was very careful, but he jumped very big, which made things a bit tricky for Clarke," he said. "Jenna had a cracking round. She had the second rail down, but got a move on and looked fantastic after that. Blair's horse was a little unsettled in the ring, but he wanted to be careful and jumped well," Erik said. "With a little more time invested, he'll be a good show jumper," Duvander said.

"There are pretty big smiles all around. Coming into this competition against riders of this caliber, to say that we would have three riders finishing in the top 10 is not an expected result. This is a great result for New Zealand, and a great result for the future of eventing."

The New Zealanders got off to a bit of a rough start with the most experienced team member of the Trans Tasman squad, Heelan Tompkins, eliminated during the dressage due to lameness in her horse, Sugoi, during the test. The rest of Trans Tasman team (Johnstone and Oakley Vision, Mahoney and Santos, and Richardson and Spend Up) finished 23rd, 17th and 20th after the dressage, with Johnstone and his individual ride, Orient Express, finishing 16th.

They were up against a world-class Australian field that included no less than five Olympic gold and silver medalists in challenging conditions, with temperatures soaring to around 40 degrees by mid-morning. With Tompkins eliminated from the competition, the rest of the New Zealand team had no room for error.

The cross-country course at Rymill Park had a drastic effect on the overall standings, shaking up the top placings and leaving the competition wide open. Australians held the top four spots, but three of the four New Zealanders produced brilliant rounds to move up into the top 10.

"This young Kiwi team has done themselves proud," said Sally Millar, Chair of the Eventing New Zealand Board, who accompanied the team to Adelaide.

"I think we should be very proud of our riders. If you take a look at the caliber of riders here today, everyone had difficulties - Olympic silver medalist Shane Rose and All Luck, for example, retired on course. There were comments that the shortened course wasn't up to standards, but it was very technical, twisty and demanding throughout the entire course.

"The 'let up' parts of the course where the riders could gallop and make up time were removed due to the heat, so it was one tough question after another. No one fence caused problems - the challenges were spread throughout the course."

Johnstone on Oakley Vision was the first New Zealander on course, and had an unlucky time of it, being eliminated for three refusals: one for a technical mistake of crossing his line, one for a run-out, and one for a stop at a fence that was removed from the course two rides after he went out on course.

"Clarke had to go out first for us around a very tough track," Duvander said. "They removed a fence that was causing a lot of trouble shortly after his round, and I think that fence really shook his horse up, so it was unfortunate that he had a stop there, and then a run-off later on."

Johnstone's second ride on the less experienced Orient Express was bold and impressive, leaving them in 9th place after the cross-country.

Richardson also had a bold ride, the relatively inexperienced Spend Up looking more than confident around the course, moving him from 20th after the dressage to 5th place going into the show jumping.

Mahoney and Santos, the last combination to be added to the Trans Tasman team, showed that they are more than capable at this level. Some excellent riding from Mahoney produced a bold, positive, clear round, boosting her into 7th place.

The Australians had mixed fortunes on the cross-country course, with some of their more experienced combinations (and one member of their Trans Tasman team, Olympic gold medalist Wendy Schaeffer and Koyuna Sun Dancer) being eliminated.

Unfortunately, the cross-country results meant the New Zealanders were out of the Trans Tasman competition, part of the Australian International 3-Day CCI4*, being unable to turn in three qualifying scores. The Australians took the Trans Tasman competition for only the third time since 1985 after their three remaining horses passed the second horse inspection before the show jumping.

"The Trans Tasman competition didn't quite work out for us, but that was a bit of bad luck," Duvander said. "But if you look at the remaining three riders, they had really good cross-country rounds on relatively inexperienced horses where world class horses were getting around with faults or not at all."

Millar said New Zealand had every right to be proud of the riders and all the team members working behind the scenes. "They've all done very well."

In the CCI** competition, Emma Scott from New South Wales took out first place by less than a penalty point on her horse Jenbern Monyana while Shane Rose won the CIC** competition for the second time, on his horse Statford Novalis.

Event director Gillian Rolton said this year's event - marking 50 years of eventing in South Australia - has been a outstanding success.

"Once again we've showcased Adelaide's capacity for staging world-class events putting on three action-packed days of fiercely contested dressage, cross country and show jumping featuring Olympians and some of the equestrian world's biggest stars," she says.

"The weather has been against us but both horses and riders have coped extremely well with the heat and although crowd numbers have been lower than anticipated, we're thrilled that the grandstand sold out, corporate sales were 30% higher than last year and more than 16,000 people have braved the unseasonable weather to see their heroes in action."

More than 110 riders entered the Australian International 3 Day Event - the Southern Hemisphere's most important equestrian event - up from 80 riders who competed last year.

The event is one of only six four-star events in the world.