The hot favourite has delivered on expectations.  Clarke Johnstone has not just hit the lead in the Honda New Zealand CCI***, but has done a personal best score of 39 with his white horse, Balmoral Sensation. 

Clarke has a 4.4 lead from Taranaki’s Matthew Grayling on NRM Lowenberg.  Donna Smith with her experienced Tangalooma is in third place, another 3.2 penalties behind Grayling.    Other riders, including Canterbury women Annabel Wigley and Emily Cammock, Englishman Nick Gauntlett are only a few points behind.  

Johnstone was thrilled with his horse.  “He was really focused and calm, he’s a beautiful horse.  It was the best test I have had from him yet.  It is always challenging with him to get the energy and the calmness, sometimes we are calm without enough energy, sometimes we have energy and not the calmness.  Today he was active and energetic and I was so happy with him.”

Emily Cammock was first to go in the Honda NZ CCI*** on the exuberant Shaw Lee, scoring 62.2.   Emily said after her test, referring to some tricky moments, that “it was hard to be disappointed when you think you are going to be eliminated and you are not!” 

Annabel Wigley on her first ride, NRM Enzo, scored 548, putting her in 8th place.   “He seemed pretty happy out there.  It is such a nice day here, and that helped with him being calm and relaxed.  We made a few mistakes but I’m really happy with him, his preparation wasn’t ideal.”

Looking very dashing in his military uniform, Fraser King and Nadal KSNZ scored 61.2 to put him in 11th spot.  “It was spoiled by some really hot moments.  He warmed up beautifully but the occasion got to him.  I am a touch disappointed.   We will go for time on the cross country now!”  Talking about the course, Fraser said that the course was bold but fair.  “There are questions all the way, especially towards the end where there are a few that could catch you out.” 

Donna Smith is in third place with Tangalooma, on a score of 46.6.  “I don’t know how this test will score  His trot is so short so it is more like what italics like rather than how it feels but to me, it felt good.   Im happy.  The course looks cool.  Tough enough and Im looking forward to it.”

It’s good to see Heelan Tompkins back competing at this level.  With Watkins, the ex-racehorse that is amongst the leaders in the Thoroughbreds in Equestrian Sports (TiES) series, Heelan scored 59.8.  “He only learned flying changes two weeks ago.  This is his first 3* start.  We will find out what his weaknesses are, he has been jumping awesome around intermediate classes.   By the end of the weekend, we will know what to work on.   The course is really good.  Lots of questions, especially towards the end when he will be tired.”

Jessica Woods was disappointed with her test on Defies Logic.  The atmosphere of the main arena, where the dressage arenas are right next to the water jump, proved too much for her horse. “He said ‘oh look, there’s the cross country jumps, yahoo!”    She was wary of the cross country course.  “The last combination from home is a good question, the horses will be tired, but there are questions everywhere.”

Second after dressage, Matthew Grayling described his test on NRM Lowenberg as “pretty solid.” “We can always do better, but I was pleased with that.  I thought he did a slightly better test at a dressage tournament two weeks ago.  But he was good under the atmosphere, and it was quite correct throughout.”  As to the course, Matthew was worried.  “There’s a lot of skinnies, and he is a big horse!”

Englishman Nick Gauntlett was full of praise about the venue.  “This is the most stunning place for horse trials.  Its a beautiful place.”  As to his test with El Grado, Nick was pleased with how hard the horse tried.   “He’s an exciting horse, at times he could have had a bit more energy, but its early days.”  As to the cross country, Nick rates the course as a highly. “There are some tough, very tough combinations.  They are as tough as any back home, or maybe even tougher.   There are one or two let up fences that are smaller than we would get at home, but not by much.  Overall it is a proper 3* test.” 

Christen Hayde and Tandarra Sweet As are the only combination competing who have won this class before.   She is currently sitting in 7th position on a score of 51.4.  “She tries really hard, sometimes to the point she gets too tense.  I was really pleased with her today though.”  As to the cross country, Christen was impressed with the changes bought in this year.  “There’s a lot going on, especially in the first half.  There’s no let up at all.”

Coleraine Coaltrain won at Puhinui at 2* level two years ago with Shelley Ross.   “He was a little bit cheeky today, he only did what I asked him, he was a little tense and as soon as I took my leg off, he changed, or went back to trot in the counter canter.”   Shelley thought the warm weather may have an influence on the cross country.  “If it’s humid like this, you’ll need a fit horse.  You will also need an honest horse, there are a lot of skinnies.”  Shelley is sitting in 9th place on 55.6. 

On her second horse, Dambala, Emily Cammock did a lovely test to be in fifth place on 48.8.  “He was good.  I thought he was good at the Nationals at McLeans Island, but he got slammed there, so hope the judges like him today.”  She was confident in her horse for the cross country.  “He’ll look after me.  He’s super honest, and with all those skinnies, you will have to be on your game all the way around.”

Last to go was Annabel Wigley with Sam Taylor’s Leo Degas.   “We made a few mistakes, but he was really good.   He has had a bit of a change in rider, Sam is so tall, and then Clarke rode him, and now he has got little me.   He tries to boss me around a bit!”

Tomorrow will be exciting.  Clarke Johnstone describes it as the Honda NZ CCI*** course as a “fair test.  I’m really looking forward to getting out there and doing it.  It should suit my horse well.”

In the Cato Packaging CCI**, Olympian Blyth Tait with his horse Leo Distinction has been pipped by the young Amanda Pottinger with Achilles, but only by 2.1.   Local Christen Hayde is in third with her horse Kinnordy Galilee.

The cross country gets underway at 9 am tomorrow with the Honda New Zealand CCI*** class expected to start at 12:15.  


 Results can be found on Equestrian Entries.   Here’s some of the main results:  


Honda New Zealand CCI*** 

Clarke Johnstone, Balmoral Sensation - 39

Matthew Grayling, NRM Lowenberg - 43.4

Donna Smith, Tangalooma - 46.6 

Annabel Wigley, Leo Degas - 48.4

Emily Cammock, Dambala - 48.8

Nick Gauntlett, El Grado - 50 


Cato Packaging CCI** 

Amanda Pottinger, Achilles II - 45.8

Leo Distinction, Blyth Tait 

Christen Hayde, Kinnordy Gallilee - 50


Honda New Zealand CCI** Young Rider

Madison Crowe, Brogan - 51.0

Sarah Young, SS Galaxy - 58.3

Sophie Abbott, Time to Tango Too - 58.8


Veterinary Associates CCI* 

Aleisha Collett, Mi Focus - 53.4

Ashleigh Mckinstry, Ngahiwi Makem - 53.7 

Donna Smith, SE Godswalk - 54.4 


DEVI Heating Systems CCI* Junior Rider

Abigail Long, BMW Advokaat - 57.5

Jackson Bovill, Visionnaire - 61.2 

Zoe Ander, Waitangi Slingshot - 61.6


Horse & Pony CCN105

Jessica Woods, LV Elf - 26.7

Janine Hayde, Brentwood Toi Toi - 28

Stephanie Vervoort, X Factor - 28.9