Aussie raid begins

Article Index
Horse Of The Year


By Diana Dobson

The Aussie raid has begun. Billy Raymont aboard the New Zealand bred and owned Nicalette NZPH have taken the Bomac Norwood Gold Cup in brilliant style on the second day of the 2011 NZ Horse of the Year Show in Hastings today (Wednesday). The victory was made even sweeter for the Hawke's Bay breeders New Zealand Performance Horses, with another of their horses Levitation NZPH finishing second – albeit in the hands of another Aussie in Anthony Thomas who bought the horse in September.

Raymont, who has been based in New Zealand at the NZPH Ocean Beach station since mid January, was one of four Australians in the five-strong jump-off – just Ike Unsworth (Tauranga), who won the class in 2007, on NRM Wimbledon MVNZ flew the NZ flag. The Queensland rider and the 10-year-old brown mare Nicalette were first to go in the jump-off and set a cracking pace over the Leopoldo Palacios (Venezuela) designed course. The Selle Francais mare spun corners that seemed to tight to pull off and a sliding turn back into the last that none could match. They came home clear in 49.28 seconds. Next out was 59-year-old double Olympian George Sanna (Australia) on the bay CP Aprilla who opted for the steady slower round, stopping the clock in 51.43.

He was followed by Unsworth, riding with a broken hand, who had a lazy rail at the first and paid the price, finishing on four faults in 51.41 seconds. Brook Dobbin (Australia), who won the class in 2003, on his big grey Advisor. A stop early in the course left them with a fistful of faults. Finally came Thomas and Levitation NZPH, who used to be ridden by Raymont. Thomas fairly flew round but in the end came up just short, stopping the clock at 50.50 seconds.

Neither Thomas nor Raymont have made the Australian team to take on the Kiwis in a test during the Silver Fern Stakes on Friday night, so perhaps have more incentive to come out firing. “That's the kind of start we like,” said Raymont of his victory. He dares not think about securing the trifecta of top prizes at the show – the Norwood, the Silver Fern Stakes and the Bell Tea Olympic Cup. Katie McVean came oh so close last year winning the Norwood and the Olympic, with Raymont taking the Silver Fern. “We've got three big classes to prepare for this week so we didn't want to go too silly today,” says the 31-year-old. “The mare felt so fresh and just fantastic – simple and careful, brave and very happy. She only came out of the brood mare paddock when she was six going on seven, so in just a few years she had done really well to be so competitive at this level.”

Raymont, who won the Australian World Cup league in 2005, also competed on his own horse Stardom today, but took two rails. With so much success in the short time Raymont has been in New Zealand towards the end of the season, it's been cheekily mentioned more than a few times that he consider a switch from the green and gold to black. Once the NZ HoY is over, he heads straight back to Australia, to be followed days later by his own horse Stardom and a few days later Nicalette NZPH and several other NZPH horses, in readiness for the Sydney Royal Easter Show.

More than 2600 combinations are taking part in the week long show which culminates on Sunday when the Olympic Cup is presented to the NZ Showjumper of the Year.

Results - Bomac Norwood Gold Cup: Billy Raymont (Australia/Ocean Beach) Nicalette NZPH 1, Anthony Thomas (Australia) Levitation NZPH 2, George Sanna (Australia) CP Aprilla 3, Ike Unsworth (Tauranga) NRM Wimbledon MVNZ 4, Brook Dobbin (Australia) Advisor 5, Julia Hargreaves (Australia) Vedor 6. ends