Showjumper Katie Laurie may be a six-time winner of the FEI New Zealand World Cup Series, but she reckons her victory yesterday in the opening round of the 2017-2018 series is her best ever.
She and Breeze headed home a quality 17-strong field in the Bayleys Real Estate New Zealand League World Cup jumping qualifier at the Hawke's Bay Show in Hastings over a challenging Roger Laplanche-designed course.
"I am the most excited I have ever been to win a World Cup," said Laurie, who is now based in Australia. "It has been such an amazing effort by so many to get Breeze here."
And as gutsy as yesterday's win was, Laurie announced the retirement of the 12-year-old bay mare, who has been competing in World Cups since late 2014.
"We have been talking about it [her retirement] and decided this would be her last start, regardless of what she did," said Laurie.
Breeze will head to the brood mare paddock where Laurie is hopeful she produces a future star.
"She breeds good babies," she said. "Breeze was such a good girl out there. She tried her little heart out."
The combination had an unlucky rail in the first round, leaving Laurie to nurse her around the second but still going fast enough to push the front of the pack.
It was the first time Laurie had been back in New Zealand for seven months.
The opening round of the World Cup class saw clears from Longburn's Lucy Fell aboard her 19-year-old former racehorse Tinapai, and Leeston's Rose Alfeld on My Super Nova.
Five combinations sat on four faults - Laurie and Breeze, Waipukurau's Brooke Edgecombe aboard LT Holst Andrea, Matangi's Clarke Johnstone on Quainton Labyrinth, Tauranga's Samantha Morrison aboard Biarritz and Karaka's Lily Tootill on Ulysses NZPH.
Eleven combinations, those with eight faults and less, came back for the second round where clears came from Laurie and Edgecombe. Tootill, Johnstone and Alfeld each added four faults to their tallies, with the final placings decided on time.
Laurie took the win, with Alfeld, unlucky to drop the very last fence, in second. Edgecombe, the best of the Hawke's Bay starters, was third, with Morrison fourth, Tootill fifth and Johnstone, on debut at World Cup showjumping level, in sixth place.
It was a great all-round show for the McVean-Laurie truck. Laurie's niece Lucy Browne was ecstatic to win her first showjumping class, the pony Awhero Awatea Idaho.
In the Country TV Pony Grand Prix, Morrinsville's Emma Watson and Maddox Fun House jumped the only double clear to take the win.
Hawke's Bay's Ruby Mason, who finished third in the Pony Grand Prix with Mr Acho, took the honours in the FEI World Jumping Challenge category A on Peggy Blue.
Putaruru's Ally Carson and Sir Gandolf won the FEI World Jumping Challenge - category B. Carson was also sixth in the Pony Grand Prix aboard Tony the Pony.
Waikato will host the second of seven World Cup qualifiers from November 7-12, Hawera the third from November 17-19, Feilding the fourth on December 1 and 2, Taupo the fifth from December 14-17, Dannevirke the sixth from January 5-7 and Waitemata will host the final from January 9-14. The series winner will have the opportunity to represent New Zealand at the World Cup final in Paris next year.