Lady and chestnut offer entree

By ANENDRA SINGH sports editor

She's once, twice, three times a lady.

And, to the tune of Lionel Ritchie's chorus, that's why Katie McVean religiously relishes coming to the New Zealand Horse of the Year Show in Hastings.

"I love it here. I just love this show," the 25-year-old said last night after clinching her third Lady Rider of the Year crown in the 14th HOY Show at the Hawke's Bay Showgrounds.

The Olympian from Cambridge has made a habit of collecting silverware and healthy pay cheques almost at will at the show right up to the premier Bell Tea Olympic Cup level.

She carries a placid demeanour, her smile a facade to what she's about to unleash on her elite rival combinations.

The baby-faced assassin has an uncanny ability to absorb pressure - no, make that turn tension into a catalyst for yielding awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping performances to the fans' delight and rivals' dismay.

Perhaps the only tell-tale sign that anxiety levels are high often comes from her father, Jeff McVean, 56, positioned in a pivotal spot on the periphery of the arena.

A pipe dangling from his pursed lips, the former Australian-born Olympian has a penchant to squat and jump like a bullfrog to will McVean over every time she draws precariously close to clearing a fence.

To stress a point, McVean not only rode Zimorena yesterday but threw in her gregarious grey, Dunstan Zasjany D, for good measure to secure the fourth place in the Lady Rider class.

With Zimorena, McVean flirted with the last fence in the seven-combination jump off but her steely resolve came through with the title No 3 from a field of 43 sets of contenders.

Her first Lady Rider crown came in 2007 with Dunstan Hairy McClairy and the second in 2010 on Dunstan Daffodil.

In the Lady Rider class yesterday, Auckland's Rosie Commons (Glenara Chandon) was second and Australia's Evie Buller (Yalambi's Landor) third.

Waipukurau rider Claire Wilson was fifth on Tipsey after picking up four faults in a time of 42.66.

With an enviable number of Olympic Cup bragging rights, where does another Lady Rider title sit in the scheme of things for McVean?

"It means a lot on a horse I won with," she said last night before heading off to the Hall of Fame dinner function at the showgrounds.

Zimorena is heading off with McVean to the Sydney Royal event in a fortnight.

The imported chestnut mare, which was the first to go in the jump off, is wet around the ears.

Despite a grizzly thump on the last fence rail, McVean and Zimorena gave Leopoldo Palacios' mental maze a good going over in 42.54sec, no doubt raising the bar, as it were, for the Venezuelan course designer to mull over what he will need to come up with in Sunday's Olympic Cup.

McVean, who last year competed abroad with a lower back fracture, is on track to clinch a historic third consecutive Olympic cup title this Sunday on the heels of a hattrick of New Zealand League World cup Series.

The Mystery Creek rider first won the Olympic Cup in 2008 (Dunstan Forrest II) before nailing it in 2010 (Dunstan Delphi) and last year (NRM Seremonie VDL).

Australian Peter McMahon (KS Genoa) broke McVean's habit in 2009 to rob her of her first hattrick in the $200,000 class event.

No one has won more than two consecutive titles before although John Cottle has six to his name between 1973 and 2005.

Having sold her prized mount, Delphi, for an undisclosed multi-million-dollar sum to a Saudi Arabian team last year, McVean described the horse as "one in a million".

However, she isn't fretting about losing Delphi, emphasising the proceeds from the sale have been reinvested in their Cambridge property.

With patience and dedication, McVean hopes to nurture another champion mount of Delphi's calibre.

The timing of the sale also robbed her of a chance to qualify to compete in the London Olympics.

For now her focus is on beating the Australians in the Mitavite Australasian test, which is part of the $50,000 CRT Silver Fern Stakes tonight.

"We've beaten them in the first test already but they have a strong team so we'll have to be good," she said before she mounts Daffodil, a home-bred half sister of Delphi.

The New Zealand team is McVean on Dunstan Daffodil, Lisa Coupe (Hawke's Bay/Kumeu) on Bates Amaretto MVNZ, Bernard Denton (Gisborne/Feilding) on Suzuki and Simon Wilson (Waipukurau) on Swinger. Susie Hayward (Mid-Canterbury) on Andretti is the reserve.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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