The glitz and glam of showjumping heads to the Bay of Plenty this week for the Tauranga World Cup Final Show.
It starts with a roar tonight, with the Mills Reef Classic followed by the final of the FEI Bayer World Cup (New Zealand) series. The two top-flight classes, being held at the Mills Reef Winery, have attracted some of the best names in New Zealand showjumping.
The 1.35m classic, which has a prize purse of $3000 and has attracted 30 entries, starts at 4pm. All corporate tables for the event have sold out but there's lots of room for the general public to be entertained. Entry is free.
The World Cup final will follow the classic. It's a small field but has all the main players who are in with a chance to win the series and the right to represent New Zealand at the world final in Sweden in April.
Dannevirke's Maurice Beatson leads the pack and is flying in especially for the final, and will be riding a borrowed mount for the class. Olympian and world championships representative Beatson is a former series winner and can never be underestimated in any class. He is entered aboard Josh Barker's Highlander.
Another star is three-time series winner Katie McVean of Mystery Creek, who notched New Zealand's best result in a World Cup final with her sixth placing in 2011, and has Dunstan Zimorena G on the card.
McVean hasn't targeted the World Cup series this season, as her team are young, but they have certainly stepped up as the rounds have ticked by.
She won the Gisborne round last weekend aboard Dunstan Delilah and was third on Zimorena, who has really matured this season.
The nine-year-old European import loves to be pushed, and the thrill of speed appears to bring out the scope in her.
McVean is sitting nine points behind Beatson on the leaderboard.
Right behind Beatson is farrier Bernard Denton of Feilding, who is in touch with a possible series victory. He and Horsesports Suzuki have won a final before, but never the series, and he would dearly love to add that honour to his trophy cabinet.
Also entered is young gun Luke Dee of Ocean Beach who with Ombudsman almost nudged McVean off the top of the podium in Gisborne.
He's one to watch, as is farrier Tim Myers of Hawera, who with Pick Me NZPH won the World Cup round in Taupo just before Christmas.
Acclaimed course builder Louis Konicks of the Netherlands is designing the final.
With points-and-a-half on the line at the Tauranga final, there is plenty of incentive for any of the top six to produce their best.
Picking series winners is tricky, as points are worked out on the number of starters, and final tallies are only from their best four outings of the league.
The three star Tauranga Show moves to the race course for tomorrow, Saturday and Sunday. With more than 400 combinations from all over the North Island entered in the show, there is plenty of top action to be seen.
Special guests tomorrow morning will be Dan the Weatherman from TV One Breakfast, who will go live from the race course.
Each day has at least one main class, with tomorrow afternoon's inaugural 1.3m horse sweepstake the one to be there for. All of the entry fees gathered for the class go back into the prize purse.
Saturday sees the seven-year-old series, young rider and 1.35m classes, with Sunday's Bayleys Tauranga Horse Grand Prix set to go in the middle of the day and the pony grand prix later in the afternoon.
Points (after seven rounds, best four to count): Maurice Beatson (Dannevirke) 42 points; Bernard Denton (Feilding) 38, Ross Smith (Canterbury) 36, Katie McVean (Mystery Creek) 33, Tim Myers (Hawera) 29, Luke Dee (Ocean Beach) 27, Lucy Akers (Opiki) 17, Samantha McIntosh (Cambridge) 17, Simon Wilson (Waipukurau) 16, Susie Hayward (Canterbury) 16, Lisa Coupe (Kumeu) 9.