Eight horse and rider combinations will fight it out for the big title at the Puhinui International 3 Day event over the weekend in Auckland.   Only a brave person would pick the winner of the Honda NZ CCI3* at this point - every one of them has a good chance of success.  

Perhaps age and experience will give some the edge.  Matthew Grayling has had a wonderful career including representing New Zealand at the 2004 Olympics but certainly isn’t finished yet.  He has recently been in the winner’s circle when he took out the main eventing class at Rotorua.  Another experienced campaigner, Brent Jury, has not travelled up from Christchurch just for Christmas shopping, he’s out to win this title and his horse loves this course.   

Local riders Simon Gordon, Dannie Lodder and Angela Lloyd will all have a good go at winning.   Lloyd will be looking to add the Puhinui title to her National one day event title, recently won in Christchurch with her lovely horse, Song. 

Youngsters Abby Lawrence, Tessa Jacks and Kelsey Rothery will be very keen to take out what would be the most significant title in their careers to date.

Event Director, Dave Sutton, is very happy with the venue, the course and the prospect of a great competition.   “It has come together really well, thanks to the great team of volunteers.  There have been a lot of people doing a lot of work for a long time to make this happen.”

World number one ranked eventing rider, Andrew Nicholson will be on hand to observe the beginning of the competition, including the first veterinary inspection the horses need to pass on Thursday afternoon.  On Friday morning, Nicholson will lead a cross country walk where members of the public can accompany him to view the challenging fences and hear his views on how to tackle them.   There will also be an opportunity for fans to hear Andrew being interviewed by his fellow Olympian, Blyth Tait, at lunchtime on Friday.  Andrew flies back to his UK base on Friday night.

Another top competition will be the Cato Packaging CCI2* where a field of 34 of New Zealand’s top riders young and old go head to head.   Sarah Broughton, Virginia Thompson, Sophie Wilkinson, Jessica Wood and Amanda Pottinger will be ones to watch, as will Samantha Felton, who comes into this event with good form behind her, having recently won national one day championships.  Then you have the experience of Campbell Draper who has shown consistent results with Mr Mancini and Donna Smith, recently returned from competing at the Adelaide 4*. 

International eventer, Clarke Johnstone has the ride on the talented Leo Degas, usually ridden by Canterbury’s Sam Taylor.  Johnstone has recently returned to base himself in NZ and he will be looking to continue his winning form at this event, winning the CCI1* last year.   Another South Island international eventer, Annabel Wigley has Benrose Rockstar entered and shouldn’t be discounted. 

42 combinations have entered the Veterinary Associates CCI1*, including Dannie Lodder and Donna Smith who each have 3 horses.  Dannie and Donna, together with Courtney Romcke and Sophie Wilkinson are in for a busy weekend, as these four will be competing on four horses each in various classes over the weekend.

One to look out for in the Horse & Pony CCN105 is Kylee McCambridge who has been producing excellent results with her talented Amazing Spy.  It could well be worth watching her dressage test to see if she can produce another sub-10 total score!

If you have never experienced the thrill of eventing or are a keen equestrian enthusiast, then Puhinui is the place to be this weekend.  Dressage is on Friday, cross country Saturday, and showjumping on Sunday.    $5 gate charge, children under 13 free.