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Briar Triumphant in Horse of the Year Finale

Briar Triumphant in Horse of the Year Finale

It was a nail biting finish to the 2018 Land Rover Horse of the Year with the big classes on Sunday including the prestigious Olympic Cup.

The biggest and most desirable title in New Zealand show jumping saw 24 starters keen to give the 1.60m course a go. German course designer Werner Deeg set a formidable challenge with a lengthy track full of questions and big fences, judged over two rounds with the possibility of a jump off if an equality of faults was reached at the end of the second round.

The first clear round of the afternoon came from Australian Clint Beresford aboard the nifty black Emmaville Jitterbug who made the tough track look easy. South Islander Tegan Fitzsimon followed him with the lovely Double J Monarch who had just the one rail down, as did Aussies Brooke Langbecker on Quintago and Stuart Jenkins on Fairview Aliquidam. The youngest in the class was 17 year old Briar Burnett-Grant who produced a beautiful clear on Fiber Fresh Veroana quickly followed by 2017 winner Lily Tootill on Ulysses NZPH with another clear round. A slew of four faulters came next from Lisa Cubitt on Matawai Sentana, who won the Ultra Mox Lady Rider of the Year on Thursday, Fraser Tombleson and Mea I, Tom Tarver-Priebe and Popeye and Katie Laurie with On The Point Sandy.

Rails kept falling in the second round, with ten combinations on four faults and under coming back. In the end it was looking like an Australian victory with Langbecker and Jenkins jumping clear to finish with a total of four faults each brought forward from the first round, with only their fellow Aussie Beresford and young gun Burnett-Grant left to go.

The cheers went up for Beresford as he jumped clear before Burnett-Grant really put the pressure on by simulating his picture perfect round with another clear to force a jump off. Beresford kept his cool over a shortened course of massive jumps, jumping his third clear of the day and stopping the clock at a cautious 46.92 seconds.

It was up to Burnett-Grant to keep the Olympic Cup in New Zealand, and the entire crowd rode with her as Fiber Fresh Veroana did his best to keep the rails up. The cheers were absolutely deafening as they cleared the last fence and every person in the stands roared as her time was revealed: 45.79 seconds.

“I didn’t back myself to win at all,” the elated Briar couldn’t stop smiling after several speedy victory laps of the arena complete with prize rug, ribbon, garland and the traditional red jacket presented to winners of the Olympic Cup. “We haven’t had a great week and I wasn’t even sure if I should jump today, but he really pulled it off.”

The accomplishment is impressive indeed and makes her the youngest ever winner of the prestigious title, all the more special as she celebrated with her whole family there with her. Second placed Clint Beresford was very complimentary of her ability to stay cool under pressure, while his Australian team members Stuart Jenkins and Brooke Langbecker were pleased with their third equal placings. Lisa Cubitt, Tom Tarver-Priebe and Lily Tootill shared fifth equal with Tegan Fitzsimon and and Katie Laurie eighth equal.

In the eventing, there were a few changes to the placings in the Land Rover CIC 3* after the third and final show jumping phase but top spot never changed. Clarke Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation cruised around to finish on 40.5 penalties for the win, looking forward now to the World Equestrian Games later this year. Stylish clear rounds pushed Nick Brooks and For Fame into second place on 48.9 penalties and Ashleigh McKinstry on Pioneer Brass Monkey into third on 49.1.

Abby Lawrence had a rail in hand on Anonymous going into the show jumping for the CIC 2* and she needed it, but just the one down kept her in first place in front of Fleur Rohleder and The Alchemist. Matangi based Samantha Felton was third with Ricker Ridge Sooty GNZ.

Over in the Premier Dressage Arena it was a battle between the greats as several riders prepared for their own trip to the World Equestrian Games in September. John Thompson came out on top for his second win in the GJ Gardner Homes CDI*** FEI Grand Prix Freestyle on JHT Antonello who will be his mount for the Games. Second placed Julie Brougham and Vom Feinsten will join them on the first New Zealand dressage team in twenty years.

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