McVean wins third Olympic Cup

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Horse Of The Year

By Diana Dobson.

Katie McVean provided the fairy tale finish at the 2011 NZ Horse of the Year Show in Hastings today (Sunday) when she won the $200,000 Bell Tea Olympic Cup beating Australian Jamie Kermond in a nail-biting jump-off.

McVean, the defending champ, rode the 11-year-old imported NRM Seremonie VDL – owned by Mount View Sport Horses Wendy and Richard Keddell – and flew in from Europe just for the show. Within an hour of hoisting the Olympic Cup she was back on a plane to prepare for a World Cup show in Holland later in the week. Eighteen started the class, with just 11 with 12 faults or less coming back for the second. As the faults mounted for the Kiwi riders it started to look increasingly like the Showjumper of the Year title, and the $40,000 winners cheque would be crossing the Tasman with any on of the eight Australian combinations.

Last to go was Australian 21-year-old Danielle Butcher aboard Twins Big Higgs, who produced the only clear of the round, but picked up three time faults for her caution. Best performed of the Kiwis in the first round was McVean on Seremonie, sitting on eight faults.

Ahead of her were Australians Butcher on three faults, Billy Raymont on Stardom and Jamie Kermond on Colthaga with four apiece, and Julia Hargreaves aboard Vedor on five. The second round saw McVean go clear with just a single time fault, as did Raymont on the NZ-owned Nicalette NZP. Butcher, in her first season in the big time, had three rails down and picked up four time faults knocking her out of contention.

When all faults were tallied Kermond on his lovely grey Colthaga and McVean aboard the grey mare Seremonie were tied on nine faults forcing a jump-off. McVean was out first and looked to be on track until three from home when she took a rail. Kermond watched her go and came out with a steady clear in mind – it looked for all money like the cup was trans Tasman bound....until the last fence.

McVean says she couldn't believe she'd won. Seremonie's owner Wendy Keddell and the horse's usual rider Ike Unsworth, who broke his hand three weeks ago, were overwhelmed. The Olympian only found out she was riding the horse on her return to New Zealand on the first day of the show. “She's quite a different ride to my horses,” she said. “She's a lot more European and it's taken a couple of days to adjust as she's quite strong.” But adjust she did and for the second consecutive year, won the most prestigious showjumping trophy in New Zealand. Dad Jeff McVean says he picked it would be Seremonie rather than Dunstan Daffodil who would shine on the final day of the show.

McVean had 16 faults in the first round on Daffodil, but won the Silver Fern Stakes on her earlier in the show. “She tried hard but she was tired,” he said of Daffodil. The second-placed Kermond was philosophical about the rail, taking full blame for it. “It's heartbreak not to win but fantastic considering where we have come from over the last few months.” Nine-year-old Colthaga had had a small injury which had limited her build-up competition before the Horse of the Year Show – which had been in the planning for the past six months.

Earlier in the day, Brad Cunningham's trip from way down south paid dividends with a nippy 77.12 second round giving him the NZ Speed Horse of the Year title. Second-placed Tess Williams (Gisborne) Alltech Walnut Brown will be ruing a dropped rail that saw them slip into second slot – rails are turned into time and even with that she finished less than three seconds behind Cunningham. In eventing Lizzie Brown (Hamilton) and Henton Attorney General rode a beautifully judged clear round in the showjumping phase to give her the win in the three star, nudging out World Equestrian Games team bronze medallist Clarke Johnstone (Cambridge) and Orient Express.

Overnight leader Johnstone, who followed Brown into the arena, had no room for error, with just 1.2 faults in hand. Two fences down saw him slip into second place, with Alice Montgomery (Christchurch) and Gordon in third. In dressage Vanessa Way (Taranaki) won the Grand Prix Horse of the Year title with KH Arvan, with former Olympian Louisa Hill (Auckland) reserve on Bates Antonello. Kelly Van Dyk (Putaruru) won the young rider title aboard Wolhkahn with Kate Welten (Cambridge) reserve on Amajah.

Results - Bell Tea Olympic Cup NZ Showjumper of the Year:

Katie McVean (Mystery Creek) NRM Seremonie VDL (owned by Mount View Sport Horses Wendy and Richard Keddell) 1, Jamie Kermond (Australia) Colthaga 2, Julia Hargreaves (Australia) Vedor 3, Billy Raymont (Australia/Ocean Beach) Nicalette NZPH and Raymont (Australia/Ocean Beach) Stardom =4, Phillip Steiner (Tauranga) Annandale Online NZPH 6, Maurice Beatson (Dannevirke) My Gollywog and Danielle Butcher (Australia) Twins Big Higgs =7, Lucy Akers (Palmerston North) Tinapai 9, Bernard Denton (Gisborne) Suzuki 10. Showjumping, NZ Speed Horse of the Year: Brad Cunningham (Christchurch) Cheltenham 77.12 seconds 1, Tess Williams (Gisborne) Alltech Walnut Brown 80.72 2, Kirsten McLeod (Gisborne) NZ Joseph 80.99 3, Daniel Meech (Europe/Hawke's Bay) Winston Darco V 81.29 4, Vicki Wilson (Northland) Showtym Girl 83.41 5, Vicki Wilson (Northland) Wurlitzer 83.93 6.