Clarke Johnstone wins NZ Eventer of the Year title


Clarke Johnstone has had a sensational result at his first 3* start on his new ride Balmoral Sensation, winning the CIC3* class at New Zealand’s Horse of the Year Show to earn the title Eventer of the Year.

Johnstone bought the horse from Donna Smith two months ago, and has been quietly building a relationship with the big moving, strong-minded warmblood in the lead-up to this event.

New Zealand Eventer of the Year, Clarke Johnstone on Balmoral Sensation.
New Zealand Eventer of the Year, Clarke Johnstone on Balmoral Sensation. © Libby Law

Third after the dressage on a score of 50.7 penalties, Johnstone was last to go cross-country and had the benefit of riding Sam Taylor’s Leo Degas first, but the misty rain was making the ground slippery by the time they finished and they picked up 2.8 time penalties, but held their place.

Dressage leader Matthew Grayling added 6 time penalties to his dressage score of 46.8 penalties with NRM Lowenberg but held his lead, although the margin had become so tight that the top five horses were within 4 points of each other and could not afford to drop a single showjumping rail. Last to go and needing a clear round to hold the lead, Grayling had the first fence down and added 4 time penalties to drop to fourth.

Defending title holder Simon Gordon on improved from eighth after 55.2 dressage penalties to finish runner-up after a fast cross-country round incurring 0.4 of a time penalty and showjumping clear but with 3 time penalties. Third place went to Joseph Waldron on Springvale All Black, improving from seventh with a dressage score of 54.9 with one of two cross-country rounds inside the time, and having one rail down in the showjumping.

Talent Development Squad member Samantha Felton, having her first 3* start, produced the other clear cross-country round on Ricker Ridge Pico Boo, improving from sixth after dressage with 54.3 penalties to third after cross-country, but had two showjumping rails down to finish fifth.

Twelve of the 16 starters finished the event, with John Nicholson’s course receiving acclaim from both riders and spectators, and show director Kevin Hanson being lauded for bringing to reality his dream to run the cross-country phase of the eventing on the showgrounds, attracting a 19,000 crowd to watch it.

Johnstone, who has earlier finished second and third in the Eventer of the Year class, was a very happy rider. He has not long moved back from the United Kingdom, but seems to have settled in well and is building a strong team of horses.

Johnstone had plenty of praise for Donna Smith who had produced the David Goodin-bred grey gelding. “Donna has done all the work on this horse so a big thanks to her,” he said. “I am very lucky.”

He’s very excited about his new partnership. “This is just the first step with him. This was the first event we aimed him for but really, I couldn’t have asked him to go any better.

“The show has been really fantastic. It is so different to anything else we have in New Zealand, with the crowds, the arena and lots of people all round the water jump … it has been great.”

Samantha Felton quinellaed the NZ Horse & Pony CIC2* class, winning on Henton After Dark, who led after the dressage with 42.8 penalties, and added no further penalties from either jumping phase. She was second on Ricker Ridge Escada, who was also clear and inside the time on the cross-country, but had a showjumping rail down, improving from fourth after the dressage. Mark Todd and Drakkar finished third.

Below: CIC2* pictures courtesy Jane Thompson

Results –

CIC3*: Clarke Johnstone (Matangi) Balmoral Sensation 53.5 penalty points 1, Simon Gordon (Karaka) 58.6 2, Joseph Waldron (Te Awamutu) Springvale All Black 58.9 3, Matthew Grayling (Taranaki) NRM Lowenberg 60.8 4, Samantha Felton (Waikato) Ricker Ridge Pico Boo 62.3 5, Donna Smith (Te Kauwhata) Balmoral Tangolooma 77.9 6. 

NZ Horse and Pony Magazine CIC2*: Samantha Felton (Waikato) Henton After Dark 42.8 penalty points 1, Samantha Felton (Waikato) Ricker Ridge Escada 52.3 2, Mark Todd (UK) Drakkar 52.6 3, Dannie Lodder (Auckland) Waitangi Icon 53.1 4, Madison Crowe (Rangiora) Brogan 56.8 5, Chanel Campbell (Auckland) Kingston Time 58.3 6.

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