VIRGINIA CARO North Island eventers' first outing for the season at Taupo was in weather that put the results in the hands of the gods. The dressage could not be regarded as a pointer of form to come, with some riders blessed with sunshine for their test and others with brutal showers making it impossible to produce a creditable performance.
However, it was a well deserved win for Auckland's Anne-Marie Johns, riding South Carolina, in the advanced/intermediate class, and a great start to her leaderboard hopes. Third after the dressage on a score of 34.6, Johns showjumped clear, and had just 7.6 time penalties across country for a final score of 42.2. It was a class act.
She has the satisfaction of being the first person to defeat Olympian Matthew Grayling, of New Plymouth, and Stephen Montgomerys Gordon. Grayling and Gordon led after the dressage, as always, on a score of 30, but a very exuberant Gordon had to be seriously contained in the showjumping, resulting in seven time penalties, which ultimately cost them the event.
Gordon was not the only NZ transtasman team member feeling his oats, with dressage performances reflecting the fitness of these horses being prepared for a four-star event in Adelaide in a month's time. Grayling incurred just 7.6 cross-country time penalties with Gordon to finish second on a score of 44.6, but the others had double-figure penalties with the long term goal in mind.
Whangarei's Kate Wood was third with Staccato, pulling up from twelfth after the dressage on a score of 41.3 with a clear showjumping round and 8.8 cross-country time penalties to finish on a score of 50.1.
The new combination of Laura Wallace riding TriednTrue, formerly ridden successfully by Barbara Wallis, showed great promise to finish fourth at their first outing.
Fifth after the dressage on a score of 35.9, they had three showjumping rails down, but breezed round the cross-country with just four time penalties to finish on 51.9.
Eighteen combinations started this class, with two eliminations in the showjumping phase (advanced) but all except one jumping clear across country (intermediate). The advanced class event is at Hastings this weekend, and their final run before leaving for Adelaide at Takapau, on October 29/30.