Eventing horse Orient Express suffered a fatal injury on the cross-country phase of the CCI3* class at New Zealand’s National Three-Day-Event at Taupo on Saturday.
Ridden by Clarke Johnstone and owned by the Johnstone family, Orient Express had been placed second going into the cross-country phase.
No other details were available about the accident, but organisers said Johnstone was not injured in the accident.
Bev Shandley, President of the Ground Jury at the event said:“We are saddened by the loss of this fine equine athlete today, and we offer our sympathies to the Johnstone family.
Orient Express was known as “Blue” at home, was Johnstone’s mount for the 2010 World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, where they won team bronze, and they also won two World Cup qualifiers in 2011, at Kihikihi and Sydney, and took out the 2011 World Cup Eventing title.
Johnstone campaigned Blue in Britain later in the 2011 season, and Orient Express was the highest placed member of the gold medal winning New Zealand team at the Asia Pacific Olympic Qualifier at the Blenheim Horse Trials.
Johnstone looked likely to be named on the New Zealand team for the 2012 Olympics until Orient Express and two of his other top-level horses suffered injuries in the lead-up Games. Johnstone returned to New Zealand in 2013, bringing Orient Express with him.
Orient Express was retired in 2013 but had been making a comeback, having his first start back home at Hastings in March, where he won the CIC2*. He followed this with a second placing in the CIC2* at Kihikihi in April, and fourth in the Central Districts on May 2.
Orient Express was a 16 year old New Zealand thoroughbred gelding by Blues Traveller (Bluebird/Authi). His dam Arganita was by the Italian stallion Tarrago (Sharpen Up) and out of Swanetea (Crest of the Wave). He raced as “New York New York” and was trained by Tony Cole in Te Kauwhata. He was unplaced in eight starts from 2002 to 2004, including one hurdle race.
He was bought by Clarke’s parents, Rod and Jean, as a six-year-old. He had been off the track for about 6 months and had been schooled by Olympian Paul O’Brien.