Horse of the Year: The Lady Rider of her Word

By Anendra Singh

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Lucy Akers and Cortaflex Tinapai emulated their feat of 2011 yesterday. Photo / Paul Taylor
Lucy Akers and Cortaflex Tinapai emulated their feat of 2011 yesterday. Photo / Paul Taylor

Ladies and ... umm ... gents? Nah, the men can now wait until next year, as far Lucy Akers is concerned, because there's only one bloke who deserved a mention yesterday - her horse.

"I'm done. I'm serious. I'm going to the pub for the next three days. I'll be just watching now," the 29-year-old from Palmerston North said yesterday shortly after claiming the Bayer NZ Lady Rider of the Year crown on Cortaflex Tinapai in Hastings.

Akers will sit out the feature JB Olympic Cup showjumping event of the NRM Horse of the Year Show at the Hawke's Bay Showgrounds on Sunday.

Asked if she'd be left wondering if she could have done the double or shown a mixed-gender field what the female champion combination was made of, Akers revealed she wasn't just any "lady".

The veterinary nurse, who won the same title on the same mount in 2011, is definitely a lady who keeps her word, even to her horses.

"I made a deal with him [Tinapai] that if he wins today then I wasn't going to jump on Sunday."

Yesterday Akers and her mount, known affectionately as Tina to those in equestrian circles, shrugged of a challenge from a field of 48 other female-rider combinations.

"It is one of the toughest classes of the show to win. Equestrian is a sport where you are equal, riding against men and women, but this is one just for the ladies. Besides, it wouldn't have made any difference if there were men in the class today," she said with a grin.

"They [men] won't be winning the lady rider [on Sunday], will they?"

This year the class format was altered with 30 making the cut after the first round - those with eight faults or fewer.

While it suited her mount, Akers felt horses would have required a lot more stamina to keep up with the extra jumping in the scorching Bay weather.

After two rounds, four were left standing following flawless rounds - Akers; former Olympian Samantha McIntosh, of Cambridge, on Estina; Tegan Fitzsimon, of Christchurch, on Dual Diamond; and Nicole White, of Southland, on Cricklewood Ace.

McIntosh set the pace with a faultless round in 51.84 seconds. Fitzsimon's Dual Diamond had a few rough edges but came through clear, albeit with a single time fault in 57.69.

White won the collective "ooh" sympathy vote in fourth place as Cricklewood Ace gut-wrenchingly clipped the final fence for four faults on a scorching time of 47.86. It'll be one she won't forget in a hurry.

Akers had the crowd on its feet with a clear round in 50.01.

As the showjumper tried to cool Tina down at the stable shortly after the presentation, she said of the 15-year-old temperamental gelding: "He can do what he likes."

She bought the Waikanae-bred former racehorse as a 6-year-old after Bryce Newman had used him in eventing.

"He has the right temperament for showjumping," Akers said although she hastened to add many people thought she was mad in trying to establish a rapport with Tina.

Her affinity with her mount is a no-brainer although yesterday "Lady Luck" played her part.

"When I'm really, really relaxed then he's fine. If I'm on the edge then he gets wound up, too."

In Akers' mind, the abbreviated nickname Tina may as well be a female.

"It's a bit girly but it suits him," she said, adding all her major titles, including last year's GP series and the 2011 test, came from him.

Akers can't imagine any mount replicating the class of a horse that once had no suitors during an expensive tour of Europe (nine months) and the US (six) in 2008-09.

"It was so expensive [travelling] I thought about selling him but no one wanted to touch him," she said, adding it was the best decision she ever made when she listened to her mother, Jayne, who was yesterday working behind the scenes, advised her to return home. Akers will retire him now.

Yesterday Jayne laboriously worked on Tina, who had helped earn $1200 and a bracelet that would go into Akers' jewellery box where the necklace from the 2011 win lives.

As the senior Akers moved a monsoon bucket-like container with ice, a journalist asked if it was wine for the celebrations.

Replied a grinning Jayne: "No, it's bad luck to have anything on ice before the race."

No doubt, Tina's hot hooves were the exception to the rules.

Before the jump off, Jayne had said: "Good luck and don't go mad."

It was a reference to a rush of blood her daughter has a tendency of having in asking Tina to "go a little further than he should" in the arena.

Lucy is the middle sibling among five Akers daughters who all rode horses growing up before family commitments took over for some.

She still likes to think she will win the Olympic Cup some day on Tina, considering Maurice Beatson did it last year on 18-year-old Gollywog.

The atmosphere on Sunday, she felt, would have been tense and demanding for Tina.

As Akers fulfilled media obligations, her cellphone went wild, with boyfriend Duncan Fell and Julie Davey among wellwishers disrupting interviews. Laughter prevailed when she was asked if marriage might result in an ominous surname (Fell) for a showjumper.

Results

Bayer NZ Lady Rider of the Year: Lucy Akers (Palmerston North) Cortaflex Tinapai 1, Samantha McIntosh (Cambridge) Estina (owned by Lakeridge Equestrian) 2, Tegan Fitzsimon (Christchurch) Dual Diamond 3, Nicole White (Southland) Cricklewood Ace 4, Melody Matheson (Hastings) Cheltenham 5, Sally Steiner (Tauranga) Renaissance NZPH 6.

Country TV Tri-Nations (pts after day 2): Australia 11pts, New Zealand 7pts, China 2pts.

Dressage, level 4 (title): Kaye Asham (Awanui) Dante MH 1, Julie Brougham (Palmerston North) Furst Fellini 2, Louisa Ayres (Waikanae) Playmate 3, Nicky Pope (Auckland) Saskatoon 4, Lisa Blackbourne (Kumeu) Lingh II 5, Jacqui Thompson (Upper Hutt) Georgio 6.

Level 4 musical freestyle (title): Julie Brougham (Palmerston North) Furst Fellini 1, Kaye Asham (Awanui) Dante MH 2, Wendi Williamson (Kumeu) Cortaflex Don Amour MH 3, Louisa Ayres (Waikanae) Playmate 4, Nicky Pope (Auckland) Saskatoon 5, Sharlene Royal (Kumeu) New World Frankie J 6.

Level 4 horse of the year (title): Julie Brougham (Palmerston North) Furst Fellini 1, Kaye Asham (Awanui) Dante MH 2, Louisa Ayres (Waikanae) Playmate 3, Wendi Williamson (Kumeu) Cortaflex Don Amour MH 4, Nicky Pope (Auckland) Saskatoon 5, Jacqui Thompson (Upper Hutt) Georgio 6.

Test 5D (title): Penny Castle (Palmerston North) BL About Time 1, Nikita Osborne (Northland) Alcatraz 2, Jacqui Winspear (Auckland) JW Darjeeling 3, Penny Castle (Palmerston North) Freespirit 4, Angela Lloyd (Auckland) Ruanuka R 5, Nicola Kitcheman (Hamilton) Fraggle Rock RE 6.

Level 5 musical freestyle (title): Penny Castle (Palmerston North) BL About Time 1, Otillie Upshall (Rotorua) Regal Xavier 2, Frankie Webb (Levin) Northern Ivanthus 3, Victoria Wall (Albany) Astek Gymnast 4, Kay Ahsam (Awanui) Diva's Glory 5, Anna McIntyre (Tauranga) Cavort 6.

Level 5 horse of the year (title): Penny Castle (Palmerston North) BL About Time 1, Otillie Upshall (Rotorua) Regal Xavier 2, Kay Ahsam (Awanui) Diva's Glory 3, Frankie Webb (Levin) Northern Ivanthus and Victoria Wall (Albany) Astek Gymnast =4, Nicola Kitcheman (Hamilton) Fraggle Rock RE 5, Jacqui Winspear (Auckland) JW Darjeeling 6.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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