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Clarke Johnstone bags 3* win at NZ’s feature event

Clarke Johnstone has taken out the CIC3* at the BNZ Kihikihi International Horse Trials for the third time.

Johnstone, who won in 2007 on Oakley Vision and 2011 on Orient Express, took the honors today with his new horse Balmoral Sensation, who jumped clear in the showjumping to finish comfortably at the front of the field.

Clarke Johnstone (centre) receives the inaugural Bounce Trophy, as winner of the CIC3*, from Vaughn Jefferis (left) and Bounce's long-time groom Jo Osbourne.

Clarke Johnstone (centre) receives the inaugural Bounce Trophy, as winner of the CIC3*, from Vaughn Jefferis (left) and Bounce’s long-time groom Jo Osbourne. © Libby Law

In just six months, Johnstone, 26, has turned his luck around. He moved back to New Zealand from the United Kingdom, short on horsepower and wondering what would be next after a run of bad luck.

But as well as winning the three-star, he was also both first and second in a CNC1* and top 10 on his other two mounts.

“I have five lovely horses now, and feel very lucky,” he said. “Six months ago I wouldn’t have expected to have a team like this.”

As the 3* winner he also won the inaugural Bounce Trophy – in honor of Vaughn Jefferis’s superstar horse who won gold at both the Olympics and World Championships.

Johnstone and Jefferis were as pleased as each other with the win – Johnstone has been coached by Jefferis for seven years, and he’s spent the past two months dreaming of winning the award, which was Bounce’s 1994 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton trophy.

And he’s got high hopes for the David Goodin-bred grey, who was prepared by Donna Smith.

“He made it quite easy out there,” said Johnstone, who now heads to the CCI3* in Sydney in two weeks.

“We’ll just take it day by day,” he said, “but depending on how things go there, he could be an outside chance for the World Equestrian Games (in France). He is fairly inexperienced, but quite classy!”

Last month the combination won the Eventer of the Year crown at the NRM Horse of the Year Show.

Just six of the original 14 competitors started the final phase of the CIC3* today.

New Zealand Eventer of the Year, Clarke Johnstone on Balmoral Sensation.

Clarke Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation. © Libby Law

Kelsey Rothery and The Felon held on to their second spot by just a single fault after dropping the last fence, with Simon Gordon and Fletch.com third.

In the Waipa Home of Champions CIC2* Samantha Felton’s golden run continued with the win aboard Ricker Ridge Escada.

“I am so stoked for him,” she said of the eight-year-old former racehorse. “Henton After Dark is always stealing the limelight so it is nice for him to have an event on his own and come out on top! He has been there or thereabouts for so long now.”

Felton was second going into the showjumping, and her clear round proved just the ticket when overnight leader Diane Gilder and Your Attorney took two rails to slip to third place. Sarah Young and SS Galaxy went clear to claim second.

In the Horselands CIC1* Donna Smith notched a very special win with her six-year-old former racehorse Cluny. The 34-year-old moved up from 10th in the 47-strong field after the dressage, to third after the cross country, to take victory in the showjumping.

She likened the lovely little chestnut to her top horse Balmoral Tangolooma – “little, nippy and fast with a huge heart”.

Smith has previously won the one star at Kihikihi aboard Under Discussion, who is now jumping four star in Britain with Australian eventer Christopher Burton.

Overnight leader Abigail Long and BMW Advokaat slipped to third place after dropping two rails in the showjumping phase, with James Jackson on Leo Distinction coming up from sixth to second after a lovely clear round.

The showjumping marked the end of three full days of competition. Visiting Polish judge Slawomir Pietschak was full of praise for the event, describing it as one of the best in the world.

Below: interview with Samantha Felton, following her CIC2* win on Ricker Ridge Escada.

Results -

BNZ CIC3*: Clarke Johnstone (Hamilton) Balmoral Sensation 62.6 penalty points 1, Kelsey Rothery (Cambridge) The Felon 80.6 2, Simon Gordon (Karaka) Fletch.com 81.6 3, Abby Lawrence (Te Puke) Pseudonym 101.2 3, Shelley Ross (Waitemata) Coleraine Coaltown 109.4 5, Bundy Philpott (Waikato) Britannica MVNZ 132.4 6.

Waipa Home of Champions CIC2*: Samantha Felton (Matangi) Ricker Ridge Escada 55.8 1, Sarah Young (Tokoroa) SS Galaxy 58.7 2, Diane Gilder (Cambridge) Your Attorney 58.8 3, Chloe Phillips-Harris (Paihia) Cor Jet 64.8 4, Chelsey Hawthorn (Cambridge) Pioneer Zuess 64.8 5, Dannie Lodder (Ararimu) Waitangi Icon 67.1 6.

Horselands CIC1*: Donna Smith (Te Kauwhata) Cluny (owned by Gaye McClunie) 55.3 penalty points 1, James Jackson (Ngaruawahia) Leo Distinction 59.8 2, Abigail Long (Levin) BMW Advokaat 60.5 3, Megan Finlayson (Kerikeri) Greensleeves 60.5 4, Kate Lambie (Auckland) LT Eloquence 60.7 5, Sofie Boswell (Auckland) Skagit County 60.9 6.

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