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World Cup NZ Series Final

Sunday may be the final of the World Cup New Zealand series, but much hangs on Friday's one-shot speed class at the Larsen Sawmilling Equestrian Championships in Gisborne.  

No-one is game to pick a clear winner, but a gambler may opt for a female to win the series for the second year running as the nation's top riders prepare for the final two rounds.  Three of the top five are women with defending champ Anna Trent (Hawke's Bay) and Beijing Olympian Katie McVean (Mystery Creek) at the top. They've been dueling it out most of the season.  

Sitting in second equal spot with Trent is the quietly spoken Ike Unsworth (Tauranga) who has hit a purple patch at the perfect time.   However, the world cup series is perhaps the toughest event on the New Zealand showjumping calendar, with picking a winner made all the more tricky when you start including points gauged on the number of starters and drop-off scores.  Last year the honours went to Trent from Team Horse Sales NZ Simon Wilson (Waipukurau) on count-back.  

Going into Friday's penultimate round McVean is sitting on 53 points from her best five rounds, with Trent and Unsworth tied on 42 and Wilson on 39.   But anyone who is brave enough to discount the likes of Catherine Cameron (Cambridge) or Maurice Beatson (Dannevirke) would be a fool. All have the credentials to take the class but the all-important series decision will rest on the points.   Throw into the pot that Olympian Daniel Meech (Hawke's Bay) will start at Gisborne aboard Winston Darco V and it's anyone's class – but not crown.  

Riders only get points from their nominated mount, something Trent has had a little trouble with, having picked the wrong horse for the last five rounds.   “That's been my biggest mission so far,” says the 24-year-old professional rider who did herself and New Zealand Performance Horses proud when she rode at the world cup final in Las Vegas last year.   But she's hatched a plan for Gisborne, starting nine-year-old Cortaflex Nicalette NZPH in the speed round and 11-year-old Cortaflex Levitation in the final.   Trent admits to feeling a little pressure going into the final two rounds, but says both she and the horses have come back from a Christmas New Year break refreshed and revitalised.  

A change in rules has opened up Friday's speed class to many who would normally not start in the event, meaning plenty of points up for grabs. “Whoever wins that class will be right back on top,” says 23-year-old McVean. “There's not much at the top (of the table) so that speed class could really put a cat amongst the pigeons.”  

McVean, who has won three of the seven world cup classes so far, has opted to start just her two home-bred half sisters Dunstan Delphi and Dunstan Daffodil in the two Gisborne classes. Her new stallion Corofino II is “jumping amazingly” but has a bit of an issue with water jumps, and there's bound to be one in the course.   The 13-year-old Holsteiner stallion only arrived in the country in September and made his Kiwi debut with McVean in December.   Nine-year-old Daffodil has placed in all three of her world cup starts and eight-year-old Delphi is the turning out to be every bit the star her bloodline suggests. Both are out of McVean's father's world cup mare Flower Power.   McVean is chuffed to be at the top of the table, but takes nothing for granted.   “This was one of my goals for the year, and so far everything has gone to plan beautifully.”  

Tauranga course designer Gerrit Beker is bound to challenge the riders, with the series winner having the opportunity to represent New Zealand at the world final in Geneva, Switzerland, in April.  

Points: Katie McVean (Mystery Creek) 53 points (best five rounds), Anna Trent (Hawke's Bay) and Ike Unsworth (Tauranga) 42, Team Horse Sales NZ Simon Wilson (Waipukurau) 39, Julie Davey (Hastings) 34, Catherine Cameron (Cambridge) 30, Maurice Beatson (Dannevirke) 27.


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