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Horse Of The Year

The six day event kicks off today (Tuesday) in Hastings and has attracted more than 2600 horses and riders from all over the nation, along with a select few from Australia. Riders are vying for top honours across 18 disciplines, ranging from showjumping to dressage, eventing to show hunter, miniatures, mounted games, showing and more. The show culminates with the presentation of the Bell Tea Olympic Cup on Sunday afternoon to the New Zealand showjumper of the year.

Olympian Katie McVean (Mystery Creek) is sitting on a hat-trick to take the prestigious crown and her stake of the $200,000 prize purse, but she's without her superstar mare Dunstan Delphi, who she won the class on in 2010, and there are a raft of riders keen to halt her march.
McVean's 2010 World Champs team-mate Maurice Beatson (Dannevirke) is one of those, along with the likes of Lisa Coupe (Hawke's Bay), Olympian Daniel Meech (Taupo), Bernard Denton (Gisborne), former winner Simon Wilson (Waipukurau), South Islanders Ross Smith and Susie Hayward, youngster Bridget Hansen (Ocean Beach) and probably a few who are yet to show their hands.

Designing the courses for the top showjumping classes is the world-class Leopoldo Palacios (Venezuela).
The early big classes of the show will be a good indicator on just who has hit their straps at the right time.
Wednesday's Virbac Norwood Gold Cup is the first 'big' class of the show and most prestigious to win. That's followed on Thursday by the Bayer NZ Lady Rider of the Year and then on Friday the $50,000 CRT Silver Fern Stakes which includes the Mitavite Trans Tasman Test.

New Zealand is already one up on the Aussies after a win in Hawera early in the month, so expect a fierce battle from the trans Tasman cousins. Also decided on Friday is the Young Rider of the Year, with the Pony of the Year crown awarded on Saturday.

Eventing also has its day in the sun, with the dressage competed for on Friday, the exciting Rush Munro's advanced cross course designed by John Nicholson on Saturday and the showjumping on Sunday.
The $20,000 GJ Gardner dressage kur – the last chance to see London Olympian Louisa Hill in action before she heads to Europe – is also on Sunday.

Para dressage features a couple of Paralympic hopefuls, and in particular Rachel Stock (Auckland) who is well on the way to getting the nod for London.

More that 75,000 people are expected through the gates over the coming days. Behind the scenes it is a mammoth effort from the 400-plus volunteers who work tirelessly to make it all happen. The show pumps an estimated $12.5 million into the Hawke's Bay economy each year.

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