Kiwi Olympian Matthew Grayling and NRM Lowenberg have their noses in front after the dressage phase of the CIC3*class at the BNZ Kihikihi International Horse Trials today.
Grayling, a three time winner of the top class at Kihikihi, leads the 14-strong field on 47.2 penalty points with his three-quarter thoroughbred NRM Lowenberg. Just behind them is Donna Smith aboard Balmoral Tangolooma on 51, with two time winner Clarke Johnstone and his new horse Balmoral Sensation third on 55.8.
Pouring rain made for sometimes challenging conditions for many of the nearly 300 combinations who competed across the grades today, but no-one was complaining after near drought conditions have left paddocks parched.
But it cleared mid afternoon, in time for the second half of the three-star field to complete their dressage tests.
There isn’t really a lot across the whole of the field, with a very challenging John Nicholson designed cross country course tomorrow.
Grayling expected his 17.3hh horse to be well placed after the dressage, and says the 12-year-old may find the tight turns tomorrow a little tricky.
“He knows his job and he is a bit more economical in his cross country jumping than he used to be but he’s a big horse to manoeuvre,” said the 50-year-old dairy farmer who competed at the 2004 Olympics aboard Reva.
Over the years he has produced some superstars, including British champion William Fox-Pitt’s Parklane Hawk, who was sold to the UK three years ago.
It’s very much a family affair at Kihikihi for the Graylings – also starting in the CIC1* class are his daughters Charlotte (20) and Victoria (18).
In the CIC2* Diane Gilder and her nine-year-old Australian thoroughbred Your Attorney leads the pack after a very smart dressage test. The 27-year-old says the horse was very settled today in the dressage, and she’s looking forward to tomorrow’s cross country.
“He’s usually very consistent in the cross country – he’s a very clever jumper and very brave too.”
The 2014 event has attracted record entries. Tomorrow’s (Saturday’s) cross country usually attracts thousands to the Kihikihi Domain.
BNZ CIC3* (after dressage phase): Matthew Grayling (Taranaki) NRM Lowenberg 47.2 penalty points 1, Donna Smith (Te Kauwhata) Balmoral Tangolooma 51 2, Clarke Johnstone (Waikato) Balmoral Sensation 55.8 3, Campbell Draper (Putararu) Kahurangi Manu 56 4, Abby Lawrence (Te Puke) Pseudonym 56.4 5, Shelley Ross (Waitemata) Coleraine Coaltown 56.8 6.
Waipa Home of Champions CIC2* (after the dressage phase): Diane Gilder (Cambridge) Your Attorney 50.8 penalty points 1, Madison Crowe (Rakaia) Brogan and Kate Wood (Whangarei) Drakkar 51.7 =2, Natalie Page (Levin) The Dark Horse 52.2 4, Dannie Lodder (Ararimu) Waitangi Icon 53.1 5, Sarah Young (Tokoroa) Regal Romar 53.6 6.