The New Zealand eventing season moves into full swing at Taupo this weekend with the first Bell Tea Super League class of the 2012-13 year.
Designed to recognise and reward horse and rider combinations at elite level, the series runs throughout the competition year, finishing at the NRM Three-day Event (CCI3*) at Taupo next May.
There are five Super League events during the spring, comprising Advanced classes at Taupo and Arran Station (Takapau) in October, CIC3* classes at Woodhill Sands (Helensville) and the National One-day Championships at Taupo in November, with the Puhinui Three-day Event CCI3* (Auckland) in December marking the halfway stage in the series.
The first class at the Fiber Fresh National Equestrian Centre at Aratiatia, Taupo, has attracted a strong entry of 14 competitors, including last year’s Bell Tea Super League series winners, Christen Hayde and Tandarra Sweet As, as well as several less experienced combinations stepping up to this level.
Among these potential future internationals are young riders who have yet to test themselves at the top level, as well as former internationals bringing on new rides. Heelan Tompkins pins her hopes on Cortaflex Up N Go, while Donna Smith will be busy with three rides, including the exciting Balmoral Sensation, on whom she won the 2* class at Taupo in May.
One to watch will be Monica Oakley and Fontain, who had a good pipe-opener in the top class at Hastings last weekend after missing the autumn season due to injury. Fontain has made a remarkable recovery from a severe, potentially career-ending, paddock injury in January, and has bounced back looking as promising as ever.
The strong band of mainlanders, including Emily Cammock and Annabel Wigley, who dominated the NRM Three-day Event at Taupo in May, are expected to make their presence felt at the National One-day Championships in November, as there are no Super League classes in the South Island this spring.