It's all about keeping calm and riding the horse, says Tom Tarver after riding Popeye to a stunning victory in the Bucas Silver Fern Stakes in Hastings tonight.
It was a super 20-strong field that lined up for the opening round of the Werner Deeg (Germany)-designed course of the Land Rover Horse of the Year Show event at the Hawke's Bay Showgrounds.
Only 10 came back for the second round – four were all clear, two on a single time fault, three on four faults and one on five.
Coming back in reverse order Tarver and his lovely grey had the luxury of going last.
Ahead of him, 16-year-old Annabel Francis (Taupo), the youngest in the field, had left everything up, stopping the clock at 45.04 seconds.
Tegan Fitzsimon (Christchurch) and the very in form Windermere Cappuccino were also on zero, coming home in 45.2s, with Nick Brooks (Cambridge) and Versace C picking up a single time fault in their 50.92 round.
Tarver rode a stunning round, to leave everything up in 41.88s and bag the $9000 winner's purse.
Last year's Norwood Gold Cup winner said it was a simple mantra to doing well.
"You just have to stay calm. You've still got to ride the horse. It takes a lot to get a horse to this level and it is good when it all comes together like this. You always get a little nervous but you've just got to do the job," he said. "You have to keep your cool and make sure your horse is well prepared."
Popeye was a very special horse and they had a good bond. "He is naturally quick and he has been on very good form."
Tarver bought the nine-year-old from Kim and Greg Best two years ago and is planning to compete across the Tasman later in the year. He praised the course and said Werner had produced courses that were good for spectators and while not huge, were technical for the riders.
Francis and her Aussie import, Carado GHP, were second, with Fitzsimon third and Brooks fourth.
Sue Nimon presented Tarver the Ian Nimon Memorial Trophy before a packed grandstand at the showgrounds.
There was plenty of excitement in the Bayleys Young Rider of the Year Final.
After two hard-fought rounds just defending champ Emily Hayward (Cambridge), aboard Yandoo Lady Gold, and last night's Norwood Gold Cup winner, Oliver Croucher, (Cambridge) on Waitangi Surf remained.
Hayward was out first in the jump-off and by her own admission, a rail at the first made her heart sink.
However, she posted a solid 46.28s time leaving it to Oliver to chase on his big grey. He looked to be going for a solid clear when he jumped the wrong fence . . . much to the disappointment of the crowd, eliminating him from the jump-off.
Hayward had been targeting the class but says there was certainly added pressure as the defending champion.
"She jumped incredibly. It is definitely a good feeling," said the 19-year-old. "I had a bit of luck on my side in the jump-off. I thought I was gone after taking that first rail."
The three rounds had been tough for a little horse like her.
"There weren't as many starters as last year but the quality was definitely there."
Hayward felt it was a bit of a "cruel" way to win the class but she was very proud of her hot little horse.
"She is hard to beat on a good day. She is a real show off and loves Hoy and the crowds here."
Croucher was left chastising himself.
"It was just silly," he said. "I jumped the double and saw a good stride to the upright. I was probably a stride out when I realised (it was the wrong fence). I could have pulled off but it was just too late."
Ever the sportsman he said Emily had well deserved the win.
"It's a bit disappointing – Waitangi Surf hasn't taken a rail all show. Certainly that mistake was all mine."
Samantha Peters (Cambridge) and her in-form Cadillac NZPH blitzed the field in the Seven-Year-Old of the Year coming home more than nine seconds ahead of their nearest rivals.
"He just keeps getting better," said Peters. "The horse is an absolute superstar – he just keeps on giving. I know I can dare him and he'll give it his all."
Bucas Silver Fern Stakes: Tom Tarver (Kawerau) Equifibre Popeye 1, Annabel Francis (Taupo) Carado GHP 2, Tegan Fitzsimon (Christchurch) Windermere Cappuccino 3, Nick Brooks (Cambridge) Versace C 4, Melody Matheson (Hastings) Cortaflex Graffiti MH 5, Kimberley Bird (Ashburton) Cera Cassina 6.
Bayleys Young Rider of the Year (part of the FMG Young Rider Series): Emily Hayward (Cambridge) Yandoo Lady Gold 1, Oliver Croucher (Cambridge) Waitangi Surf 2, Steffi Whittaker (Christchurch) On the Point Eve 3, Elmo Jackson (Auckland) Fairview Animation 4, Sophie Scott ( Wellington) Lakota 5, Libby James (Cambridge) Co Dicea 6.
7-year-old Horse of the Year (part of the Matthews Hanoverians 7-year-old series): Samantha Peters (Cambridge) Cadillac NZPH 1, Oliver Edgecombe (Waipukurau) Carnival NZPH 2, Amanda Pottinger (Havelock North) Good Timing 3, Clarke Johnstone (Matangi) Watermill Hadley 4, Heloise Tolo (Wellington) Can't Touch This NZPH 5, Luke Dee (Waipukurau) Numero Uno Xtreme 6.