Eight of them will line up but only one pony club rider will be able to claim an all-expenses paid trip with a parent to Abu Dhabi in November.

The schoolgirls, and one schoolboy, are excited about winning and even some of the parents are jockeying for position for the impending flight, with some contemplating tossing the coin to see who is likely to jet off.

Annie Moffett, 11, Emma De Lautour, 13, Esmeralda Jobbins, 14, Etham Bergstrom, and Danni Bird, 13, are the Hawke's Bay contenders for the 300m sprint at 1.40pm on their mounts at the Tarzino Trophy Daffodil Raceday meeting in Hastings today.

Annie, who is riding 9-year-old gelding Piripi, is a member of the Flaxmere Pony Club.


Esmeralda will ride Gypsy, a 20-year-old Turangi bush pony, today.

'We'll probably toss a coin [for the Abu Dhabi trip] but he takes Esmeralda to all the competitions," says Lisa Jobbins, referring to her husband Michael, of Eskdale.

"She's from the bush in the middle of nowhere," explains Jobbins of the mare who Helen Benjamin, of Waipukurau, kindly gave to Esmeralda to further her mounted games career.

The Sacred Heart College year 10 pupil outgrew Clover, a pony she rode from the age of 11. She has mastered the skills of the mounted games, which entail jumping on and off the mount while carrying out tasks.

The Puketapu Pony Club member says Abu Dhabi would be a "very exciting" prospect.

"Gypsy is super fast," says Esmeralda, who has never competed in a gallops race before, but expects her pony to find some traction.

The race is the New Zealand leg of the HH Sheikha Lateefa Bint Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan International Pony Race Series.

Sheikh Mansoor is the deputy prime minister of the United Arab Emirates and Sheikha Lateefa is his daughter.

This is a new race series which forms part of the Sheikh Mansoor International Racing Festival.

The competition is restricted to 10 to 14-year-old riders. The non-Bay combinations are winners of regional national pony races conducted at Whanganui Racecourse, Pakuranga Hunt Club (Te Rapa) and Wellington Pony Club.

The international series involves nine races from nine different countries, plus the Abu Dhabi final.

Caitlin Rennie, of Palmerston North, on Buckton Showdown, Lucy Browne, of Parenga, on Coastal Girl, and Lucy Marshall, of Wairarapa, on Coco Bean, are the other regional winners from New Zealand.

Annie will ride 9-year-old Pete, who goes by the stable name of "Piripi" (Maori for Philip).

"He was a horse they tried breaking but he used to buck so they were about to shoot him," says mother Kellie of the gelding. Son Will, 20 rode Piripi to show hunter of the year glory in the Horse of the Year Show in Hastings in 2104.

Annie qualified for today's race after Piripi outsprinted fellow Flaxmere Pony Club members at the club's equestrian park over 300m last Wednesday.

A laughing Kellie agrees the controlled, educated strides and slow tempo of the show hunter have been sacrificed for raw speed.

She is indebted to Hastings couple Sue Thompson and Mick Brown, and Hastings showjumper Tracey Mason for their tutelage as well as Gemma McKay, of Levin, for her phone tips to help bring Annie and Piripi up to speed.

Annie, a year 7 Puketapu School pupil, went to Australia for school holidays last year but going to Abu Dhabi will be exciting although she knows nothing about the nation.

She's competed on Piripi at the HOY Show and is confident he can perform.

"He's pretty fast," she says, revealing she finished fourth on him in the show hunter series last year.

Danni, a year 8 pupil at Woodford House, will ride Welsh blood gelding A Patchy Splash who she's ridden for just a year.

"It'll be really exciting because I haven't done much on my pony who's only 9 years old," says the teenager of the 14.2 hands-high mount who father Philip describes as "cream coloured and has blue eyes that make him look like a nanny goat".

Danni, whose only overseas trip was to Japan last year on holiday, harbours no desire to be a jockey but the Olympic showjumping dream is alive.

"I don't know anything about [Abu Dhabi] but dad goes to Dubai for work a lot," says the Maraekakaho Pony Club member who'll be representing Hawke's Bay Hunt Club today.

Mum Rachel moots a coin flip to decide who'll go to Abu Dhabi if Danni wins.

Emma , a year 9 Woodford House boarder, will ride 17-year-old gelding Little MacIntosh.

"It's a wonderful opportunity. It's a great prize so it should be very competitive,"says her mother, Lucy, of the Central Hawke's Bay Pony Club member.

Etham, of Havelock North, will ride Cloud.