Equestrian's finest are descending on Hawke's Bay this weekend for the beginning of New Zealand's most prestigious jumping series at the A&P Show in Hastings.
The POLi Payments FEI World Cup New Zealand Series opener, which begins tomorrow
at the Showgrounds, has drawn a field including Olympians, World Champs representatives, World Cup finalists and previous New Zealand series winners.
Back-to-back defending champion Tegan Fitzsimon, who is riding her 10-year-old bay gelding Windermere Cappuccino, said it will be a very big World Cup season.
"Given the quality of the fields, it will be anyone's game," she said.
"I will be looking for some consistency from my horses."
Two-time final winner and current Olympic Cup holder Brooke Edgecombe of Waipukurau said her 12-year-old mare LT Holst Andrea is feeling good after a bit of a slow start to the season.
"Everyone would like to win [the series] but it will be super strong this year," she said.
Olympian and World Champs representative Samantha McIntosh has returned to New Zealand from Europe because of Covid, and she will will compete aboard Takapoto Alaid de Chez Nous, who McIntosh said is adjusting well to New Zealand conditions.
"She hasn't done a huge amount of big tracks and there is a lot of learning for her – in Europe 99 per cent of our jumping is on sand, so she is getting used to the grass but she is bold and very forward," McIntosh said.
Local riders to keep an eye on include Havelock North's Melody Matheson and her mare Cortaflex Graffiti MH, Waipukurau's Simon Wilson on McMillans Ariados, and the Dannevirke trio of Maurice Beatson and his 8-year-old Central Park, Logan Massie and his stallion Bravado Ego Z, and Robert Steele competing on LT Holst Bernadette.
The series opener is the first of six qualifiers leading up to the final in January. The overall winner qualifies for the Longines FEI World Cup Final in March in Sweden, although Covid may cancel it.
All outdoor rounds of the series, including tomorrow's
in Hastings, count towards qualification for selection for the Tokyo Olympic Games as well.