Lucy and Tina take the honours

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Horse Of The Year

By Diana Dobson

Lucy Akers is the toast of the town tonight after a superb win in the Lady Rider of the Year at the 2011 NZ Horse of the Year in Hastings. The 26-year-old and her sometimes fiery thoroughbred Tinapai blitzed the 49-strong field. Akers who, while based at Mystery Creek is about to move back home to Opiki, showed all the experience of several years based on and offshore, working with top New Zealand riders. But she almost didn't even make the 11-strong jump-off. “It was so lucky I did that inside turn into the last in the first round as I came home less than half a second inside time,” she said.

Akers was more nervous than usual going into the class after having her best season ever, which has seen her included in the New Zealand team to take on the Australians in tomorrow night's trans Tasman test. She was mid to go in the jump-off that had already seen Australian team-member Cathy Graham and Da Vinci's Pride clear in 41.52, Claire Wilson (Waipukurau) on Cortaflex Tipsey also clear in 39.19 and Rachel McGregor (Cambridge) on Kabo Benny Boy clear in 39.76.

The stage was well and truly set for a show-down. “The plan was to do a smooth tight course,” says Akers, who admits to loving riding the technical and challenging Leopoldo Palacios (Venezuela) courses. “Lines are easier to ride for Tinapai than single fences as he focuses a lot more,” she said of her former race-horse. “He doesn't fidget as much and tends to stay straighter.” He did that and more, flying home clear in 38.77. “He was such a good boy,” says Akers. “He did everything I asked.”

She laid plenty of credit on her trainer Jeff McVean who tweaked a few small things on Tinapai to make him go so much better this season. “He's always been difficult and other trainers have just given up in the end but Jeff made small simple changes that have made the world of difference.” It is the third title he has won at the show – he was the Seven-Year-Old Champion in 2006 and won the Premier Stakes in 2007. Tinapai, whose known at home as Tina – a name Akers says suits him well as he's a “new age male” – will get to relax after the show. He'll be turned out and Akers says she's looking for a job as a vet nurse. While the couple have campaigned rather extensively in both Europe and the US, Akers says they're happiest at home with their chief 'sponsors', support crew and parents Clive and Jayne Akers.

Fastest over the jump-off was Lisa Coupe (Kumeu) on My Ocean Wave who stopped the clock at 38.26 but took the last fence. Earlier in the day Amanda Wilson (Northland) guided her stunning pinto Showtym Viking to victory in the Seven-Year-Old Horse of the Year, with Nigel Horton (Palmerston North) and Oscar Wilde taking the Six-Year-Old Horse of the Year. The first day of the para equestrian competition got underway today, included for the first time as part of the show. Kelly Gabbott (Palmerston North) and Double Espresso pipped the uber-consistent Rachel Stock (Auckland) and Donnergrollen, winning the Grade 3 Championship on 61%, ahead of Stock’s 59.66%. Frances Dick (Nelson) and Oxford Belle continued their dominance in grade 2 with an outstanding 69.04%. Cementing a strong start with her new mount, Larado, Ilona Lawrence (Hawke's Bay) notched the highest score of the day in the para classes, with 69.50%, to win the Grade 1a Championship.

In dressage, Taranaki’s Vanessa Way showed she knows how to save the best for last, with her starry young Anamour gelding Arawn proving too good for the rest of the field taking the overall Level 4 Championship title.

Results - Century 21 Lady Rider of the Year:

Lucy Akers (/Mystery Creek/Palmerston North) Tinapai 1, Claire Wilson (Waipukurau) Cortaflex Tipsey 2, Rachel McGregor (Cambridge) Kabo Benny Boy 3, Catherine Cameron (Cambridge) Kahurangi Valentino 4, Cathy Graham (Australia) Da Vinci's Pride 5, Vicki Wilson (Northland) Showtym Girl 6. Coprice Seven-Year-Old Horse of the Year: Amanda Wilson (Northland) Showtym Viking 1, Molly Bennett (Wairoa) Ngahiwi Cupid 2, Kim Best (Otane) IQ 3, Jamie Winning (Australia) Zenzel Z HBC 4, Ross Smith (Burnham) Quite Cassini 5, Claudia Hay (Mosgiel) Euro Sport Heartbreaker 6. Mitavite Six-Year-Old Horse of the Year: Nigel Horton (Palmerston North) Oscar Wilde 1, Kim Best (Otane) Giggles 2, Billy Raymont (Australia/Ocean Beach) Romeo NZPH 3, Phillip Steiner (Tauranga) Annandale Branson MVN 4, Jaime Campbell (Auckland) Socrates De Le Vie Z 5, Chris Harris (Christchurch) Zilco Cassius GNZ 6. Dressage, Level 4 Horse of the Year Champion: Vanessa Way (Taranaki) KH Arvan Reserve Champion: Julie Brougham (Palmerston North) Vom Feinsten. Level 2 Champion: Wendi Williamson (Kumeu) Cortaflex Deja Vu MH. Reserve: Anna McIntyre (Tauranga) Covort. ends