Luke Dee didn't even have to wait until the end of the McMillan Equine Feeds Silver Fern Stakes to know he had won.
The 19-year-old from Ocean Beach already had one clear round to his credit, and when he completed the second round without dropping a rail it was all his – despite five very classy combinations still to follow.
However, while he won the $50,000 class, the Mitavite Trans Tasman Test honours went to the Aussies, who filled the second, third and fourth equal placings.
It was a ripper of a class that had the thousands who had packed the grandstand and every available standing spot at the showgrounds for the biggest ever Hawke's Bay Today Friday Night Extravaganza.
They were there to see the best showjumpers in Australasia battle it out, but most were there to see Sir Mark Todd, who rode a medieval dressage display with Jody Hartstone.
The Leopoldo Palacios designed course for the Silver Fern Stakes was technical and with a tight time, which proved the undoing of many.
But Dee said he figured he was just lucky – especially as second-placed Tom McDermott (Australia) aboard Romantic Dream only collected his four faults when he dropped the last fence of the first round.
“It was very tough competition out there and I was lucky to come out on top,” said Dee. “It's been a great season – hopefully things will tick along nicely on Sunday (for the JB Olympic Cup).”
Another young gun, Logan Massie (Dannevirke) and Kiwi Ludo (owned by Massie and Annette Scott) made it two in a row with their victory in the Dunstan Young Rider of the Year class.
It was double victory, as the New Zealand team also secured the Telecom Trans Tasman Young Rider test series in dominating form.
Forty-two combinations started – including the eight team members – and it took 21 to go before the first clear round came from Georgie Siciliano (Canterbury) on Cesann, and even then she collected a single time fault. In the second round, clears were equally scant, with just Katie Meredith (Canterbury) on Rio Madrid and Tom McDermott (Australia) on Quickstep NZPH leaving everything up.
However, then it was time for the Telecom Trans Tasman Young Rider Test teams to ride. Clears came from Kiwis Bridget Hansen (Ocean Beach) on Shakespeare NZPH and Massie, as well as Aussie James Arkins aboard Dreamtime Invader.
The second round was another stunner for Hansen and Arkins and Massie, with New Zealand's Melody Matheson (Hastings) and Cheltenham riding the round of her life to also go clear..
With the test series secure, it was back to the Young Rider title, with just Massie, Hansen and Arkins to come back.
Nineteen-year-old Massie was first out and rode a super-slick clear on his pretty chestnut, coming home clear in 40.42 seconds. Hansen gave it her all to also go clear but in 42.02. Finally came the Aussie, who had it all but won going into the last. Luck wasn't on his side and the bouncy little horse took a rail at the last to take third place.
Massie was rapt.
“We knew he was ready to come out and win the class,” he said. “It was a bit advantage to have my other horse earlier in the class, and that helped me to ride the course well.”
He's spent half his season in Auckland with Olympian Daniel Meech at the LC Horse Farm, and in April heads to Germany to train with renowned showjumper Paul Schockemohle.
In the Bell Tea CIC3* eventing dressage leader Donna Smith (Te Kauwhata) and Balmoral Sensation held after their top spot after the showjumping phase, with just the cross country to come tomorrow (Saturday).
Despite a rail down in the showjumping and seven time penalties, Smith has an overnight score of 51.8 penalties. Lying second is Emily Cammock (Christchurch) aboard Dambala, who had two rails down and three time penalties for a total of 54.5 penalties.
The showjumping saw all but one competitor incur penalties. Simon Gordon (Auckland) produced the only clear round inside the time on Fletch.com, to pull up from ninth after the dressage to lie third overnight on his dressage score of 56.3 penalties. Donna Smith holds fourth place on Sarah Varley’s Just Chocolate, having jumped a clear round but with nine time penalties for an overnight score of 62.3.
Young rider Ashleigh McKinstry (Taumaranui) on her part Kaimanwa, Pioneer Makokomiko, moved up to fifth place after having a rail down and four time penalties, taking 63.8 penalties into the cross-country.
Designer John Nicholson has set a challenging cross country course at the Hawke's Bay Equestrian Park tomorrow (Saturday) – perfectly fitting for this Trans Tasman selection trial.
Showjumping, Dunstan Young Rider of the Year: Logan Massie (Dannevirke) Kiwi Ludo (owned by Annette Scott and Massie) 1, Bridget Hansen (Ocean Beach) Shakespeare NZPH 2, James Arkins (Australia) Dreamtime Invader 3, Tom McDermott (Australia) Quickstep NZPH, Katie Meredith (Canterbury) Rio Madrid and Melody Matheson (Hastings) Cheltenham =4.
Telecom Young Rider Trans Tasman Test (second of two): New Zealand (Logan Massie, Dannevirke, Kiwi Ludo; Jake Lambert, Cambridge, Quality NZPH; Bridget Hansen, Ocean Beach, Shakespeare NZPH; Melody Matheson, Hastings, Cheltenham) first round 4 faults (best 3), second round 0, total 4 faults 1. Australia (James Arkins, Dreamtime Invader; Jack Maunder, Cyra; Sarah Beale, Alpha Centauri; Nicole Bruggemann, Bluesta) first round 9 faults, second round 13 faults, total 22, 2.
Fiber Fresh Feeds Junior Rider of the Year: Rebekah van Tiel (Karaka) Leeston Eagle 1, Lilly Tootill (Karaka) Ngahiwi Cruise 2, Emma Thurlow (Waverley) Mister Pirate 3, Rose Alfeld (Christchurch) My Super Nova 4, Melody Matheson (Hastings) Scottish Lad 5, Olivia Robertson (Queenstown) Tike Tane 6.
Saba Sam Shield: Northland (Nakeysha Lammers, Airborne Magic; Brooke Pullan, Terracotta Rose; Anna Cooper, Classic Cowboy; Tegan Newman, Watch Me Move) 16 1, Canterbury (Steffi Whittaker, Moonlight Glow; Molly Buist-Brown, Miss Mae West; Grace O'Sullivan, Tui Gold; Arabella Jarman, The Shepherd) 27 2, Ashburton (Emma Waite, Spring Brooke; Jaimee Bird, Showtym Image; Grace Percy, Madam Masala; Lucinda Askin, Buckle Up) 30 3.
Dressage, FEI Prix St Georges: Penny Castle (Manawatu) Magnus Spero 1, Vanessa Way (Taranaki) NRM Arawn 2, Abbie Deken (Taranaki) KH Ambrose 3, Charlott Bayliss (Waikato) JL Champs Elysee 4, Shiwon Green (Waikato) Da Vinci 5, Sophie de Clifford (Opiki) Cortaflex Ashbury Dolly 6.
Level 5 musical freestyle (title): Vanessa Way (Taranaki) NRM KH Allandro 1, Debbie Barke (Bay of Plenty) Lucrative SW 2, Gaylene Lennard (Waikato) Donzello 3, Thomas Oldridge (Canterbury) Teodoro 4, Holly Leach (Waikato) Devils Chocolate 5, Debra Cowen (Waikato) Knightsman 6.
New Zealand Performance Bred, Mare of the Year: Tracey Bublitz (Eltham) Bublitz Estate Romari Z. Supreme Led New Zealand Performance Bred of the Year: Helen Young (Taupiri) Floating Currency. Supreme Ridden New Zealand Performance Bred of the Year: Daniel Blundell (Auckland) Lexington.