If timing was the name of the game you could say equestrian Rachel Malcolm, husband John and their baby boy, Oliver, all had had a good measure of it in Hastings on Thursday.
"Look at mum," John said, cradling their five-month-old son in his arms as Malcolm beamed from ear to ear in the saddle of Monte Carlo MVNZ soon after winning the Ultramox Lady Rider of the Year on day three of the Land-Rover Horse of the Year Show.
"He woke up just in time for the first jump," John revealed as the Cambridge rider bagged her maiden title in the premier arena at Showgrounds Hawke's Bay Tomoana.
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The 30-year-old was the embodiment of precision after clearing two rounds on the course Werner Deeg, of Germany, had designed.
Only Malcolm and Drew Carson, riding 17-year-old Dutch warmblood Winston V Driene, had a magical first round. The other combinations seemed to let the 80-second time limit spook them. They included Tegan Fitzsimon, on her 20-year-old Alacazam MH heading for retirement, after clocking 82.94s without dropping a rail. The Cantabrian again had tripped on a time of 64.72s in the second round in trying to put pressure on others to yield clear rounds as the fourth starter.
Ironically Malcolm, riding Twerk on behalf of pregnant mate and fellow equestrian Tash Brooks, had learned pretty smartly as the 10th combination in round one after conceding four faults (dropping one rail) and clocking 80.67s.
She was the first off on Twerk in the second round with another four faults on a slick time of 53.42s on what had mutated to a 10-obstacle course almost resembling a jump off.
The Twerk takes had fuelled her as the last combo on Monte in a handsome time of 56.72s after clocking 76.96s in the first one. The plan on Twerk was to speed things up and he had been "amazing".
"I knew on Monte, if I went quick early, I could be a little more careful towards the end to try to keep the poles up," said Malcolm, believing she had had a couple of lives.
She thanked Wendy and Richard Keddell, of Tauranga, for breeding the 8-year-old dark brown gelding on whom she won the 6-year-old Breeders final at the Takapoto Estate Showjumping and the 6-year-old Hoy Show 2018 crown. They also had clinched the 7-year-old horse class at Auckland Showjumping and the GP Super Series Class at Woodhill Sands in February last year.
"They have taken him with me as a young horse," she said of Monte. "He's a quirky character but he loves jumping those poles."
Malcolm said Monte had high-twitch fibres and she had motored with him in the first round to be four seconds under the time limit but she was surprised to have had a time fault on Twerk and that had done her a favour.
"Luck was on my side today. Luck was on my side," she said when asked if the change in course had made much difference.
She heaped plaudits on a "class" Monte "who's there for you and he's got your back".
Malcolm enjoyed the support of her family, friends — including Norwood Gold Cup winner Lisa Coupe who she trains with — and her baby as sidekicks to the show.
She isn't competing in the marquee Olympic Cup on Sunday but Monte is entered in the premier stakes on Saturday morning.
"Oh we'll just have to decide whether he'll jump that now," she said with grin after Monte had shown his dislike for the victory cloak near the horse shoe entrance, knocking over a teenager and sending John scurrying with Oliver.
It was only Malcolm's second time in a Lady Rider in the second round although she was sixth on the podium after one rail was down. She was third in a jump off.
"It's right up at the top," she said of her Lady Rider accomplishment on Thursday. Having watched her idols win the event growing up she had always aspired to be there one day.
"It took me to get it at 30 but I've made it."
The field had started with 28 combinations but Samantha Morrison was later a scratch from her second mount, Elmo. The HRT 1.40m Horse Showjumping winner on Tuesday, was eliminated as the fourth combo with Frangipanne De Toxandria in the first round of Lady Rider.
Morrison, of Bay of Plenty, had wobbled on the Land Rover No 3 obstacle before her mount threw her off the saddle at the following attempted clearance.
Coupe, on Cassera MS, had left the No 7 obstacle disintegrated later.
Lammers, 23, riding Balboa NZPH, finished runner-up after carrying a time penalty from the first round with a clear round (59.62s). Carson, also on a time penalty, was third.
Fitzsimon was fourth, Sarah West, 17, of Matamata, riding Delamerie Sun, was fifth.
BOP netball squad member Olivia Newsom, 14, was sixth on board Caretino Jewel to leave a calling card to say she has more than ample time to have a crack at the crown in her promising career.
• 8am: 4Cyte 5-year-old Horse Of The Year Championship.
• 10.30am: Land Rover 4* showjumping
• 12pm: HB Contracting 7-year-old Horse of the Year Championship.
• 2.30pm: Bayleys Young Rider final 1.30m-1.40m.
• 4.30pm: Cavallino Silver Fern Stakes 1.40m-1.50m.