Lucy Olphert was just two fences away from winning the rich Hyundai Derby at Mystery Creek last week when near disaster struck.

Her 8-year old mare Eve Saint Laurent put in an extra effort to clear the difficult penultimate fence and nearly sent Olphert flying off.

But she regained her composure to deservedly win the $10,000 winner's cheque in a landmark victory for her, after four years away competing in Europe and then completing a university degree in Hamilton.

"It was a big event and by New Zealand standards very, very good prizemoney, which is definitely going to go a long way in helping me fund my show jumping career because it is a very expensive sport," Olphert said.


"I knew I had a very good horse going into the event but it was the first time she had ever jumped a track like that. I did back us to be strong and fortunately for us it paid off.

"A derby is a little bit different to a normal show jumping competition because it actually incorporates some cross country fences so it has different elements to what we both are used to jumping. It is a longer track as well.

"I have previously won the national derby on another horse so I had experience with them but for Eve it was her first time."

Olphert, 28, who grew up in Tauranga and was living back home in Te Puna, said her horses are now coming up to prime age for top level show jumping.

"I made the decision about two months ago that I was going to go fulltime and ride professionally again.

"Now one is ready for grand prix level, that's Eve Saint Laurent, and the other one, Connoisseur, is her full brother and he is stepping up into the world cup qualification series this season."

Olphert realised a childhood dream when she went overseas after school to ride professionally in Europe.

"I was there for four years and had some good success. I worked and trained for some top show jumping riders and trainers in Europe but then made the decision I wanted to come back and build my own team of horses.

"I also wanted to get a degree behind me. It is a very risky sport and a cousin of mine, Catriona Williams, had a very serious eventing accident about 14 years ago which put her in a wheelchair.

"I think it was those kind of things that made me think it would be good to have something to fall back on if you needed to in any point in time."

Olphert has her sights firmly set on making the New Zealand show jumping team to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

"That is definitely something I would love to do and I am aiming towards.

"This year was too soon for my horses in terms of their age as they were too young and inexperienced for that. I would love to go to Tokyo."