The lure of double points in eventing’s Bell Tea Super League has drawn a quality field for this weekend’s Puhinui Three-day Event, with 12 combinations vying for honours in the CCI3* (Advanced) class.
Puhinui marks the halfway stage in the league, and with double points earned at three-day events, seven of the top eight on the leaderboard are in with a chance.
Donna Smith, who won the National One-day title and leads the series Just Chocolate, has also entered Balmoral Sensation, whom she describes as the horse of her dreams.
A former international, Smith has been nurturing Sensation’s career carefully to give this magnificent horse every opportunity to be as good as his name suggests, and this will be his first major challenge. Expect big things in the future, whether he delivers his full potential this weekend or not.
Last year’s winners, Christen Hayde and Tandarra Sweet As, who also won the Bell Tea Super League last year, will be hoping to produce the goods again this time, but the competition will be keen, with Annabel Wigley having brought both NRM Enzo and NRM Frog Rock from the South Island.
Young rider Ashleigh McKinstry, who lies second in the Super League and also leads the Massey University Young Rider series with her part bred Kaimanawa Pioneer Makokomiko, will be hoping to hold her own against her seniors, but evergreen Bryce Newman with Bates Trademark and Auckland lawyer Simon Gordon with Fletch.com will be trying to move up the table.
Shelley Ross and Dannie Lodder will be hoping for better luck this weekend, having withdrawn their horses from the National One-day Event at Taupo a fortnight ago after falls from other horses, forfeiting any chance of adding to their Super League tallies as a result.
The field is completed by Olympian Heelan Tompkins on Cortaflex Ski Whistler and Monica Oakley on Fontain, who she nursed back from a career-threatening paddock injury in January to move seamlessly up to this level despite missing the autumn season.
The Puhinui CCI3*, along with the NRM CCI3* at Taupo in May, are the two highest level events in New Zealand, with the Adelaide CCI4* the only event of higher stature in the southern hemisphere, so Puhinui is a chance for Kiwis to see the action and excitement of this Olympic sport on their doorstep.