Rio boost for NZ eventing league leader Clarke Johnstone

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New Zealand Eventing Horse of the Year winners Clarke Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation.
New Zealand Eventing Horse of the Year winners Clarke Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation.

Clarke Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation had the perfect final outing before flying to England when winning the 2016 Eventer of the Year title at the Farmlands Horse of the Year Show in Hastings over the weekend. The win put them at the top the ESNZ Eventing Super League in the process.

Johnstone, from Matangi, established a dominant lead in the Land Rover CIC3* class after the dressage phase on Thursday, and followed that with a faultless showjumping round on Friday. As expected, Saturday’s cross-country looked like a schooling round for this special combination, the only onshore based members of the NZ High Performance Eventing squad.

“I am very pleased with how he has performed,” Johnstone said of Balmoral Sensation. “He just cruised around the course.”

They depart for Britain in a fortnight to join the UK based members of the squad, Sir Mark Todd, Tim and Jonelle Price, Jock Paget, and Blyth Tait, to prepare for Rio, with the CCI4* Badminton Horse Trials at the beginning of May the first major objective. The squad of six will be reduced to a team of four plus a reserve for the Olympic Three-Day Event.

Having placed third at the CCI4* Australian International Three-day Event at Adelaide in November, Johnstone is looking forward to competing against his offshore compatriots again. He was based in Britain following the Kentucky World Equestrian Games in 2010, where he was a member of the bronze medal winning NZ team riding Orient Express, but opted to return home after injuries to his horses.

Andy Daines, 24, had the best placing of his career to date, taking second place with Spring Panorama, while Abby Lawrence was third with the experienced Pseudonym, returning from time out which prevented them going to Adelaide last year.

Katherine Van Tuyl and the promising Double J Sunshine, might have conceded top spot in the Super League, but they produced another consistent performance for fourth place and extended the margin between them and the rest of the contenders on the Super League table.

The next outing for these elite eventers is the Puhinui CIC3* in Auckland on March 26-27, followed by Kihikihi CIC3* in the Waikato (April 8 to 10). The series wraps up at the NRM CCI3* at Taupo, from May 12 to 14.

ESNZ EVENTING SUPER LEAGUE – Standings after six events:

Clarke Johnstone (Matangi), Balmoral Sensation, 174 pts; Katharine Van Tuyl (Palmerston North), Double J Sunshine, 168 pts; Virginia Thompson (Kaukapakapa), Star Nouveau, 102 pts; Andy Daines (Kumeu), Spring Panorama, 90 pts; Giles Gormack (Rangiora), Lucero, 42 pts; Abby Lawrence (Te Puke), Pseudonym, 36 pts; Samantha Felton (Matangi), Ricker Ridge Escada, 36 pts.

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