New Zealand’s top onshore-based showjumpers are chasing the nation’s highest-ranked honours on Saturday as the POLi Payments FEI World Cup (NZ League) Series winds up with the grand final in Hawera.
It’s tight at the top of the leaderboard, and with points-and-a-half on offer, just the best four rounds to count, and drop-off scores to consider, anything can happen.
Phillip Steiner (Tauranga) will be hoping to finish the series as he started, with a win. He’s on 67, eight points clear of Maurice Beatson (Dannevirke) aboard Central Park, who is a single point in front of Brooke Edgecombe (Waipukurau) with LT Holst Andrea, and three-time series winner Tegan Fitzsimon (West Melton) on Windermere Cappuccino behind her.
Phillip and his bay mare Cassina Dior have won two of the qualifiers in the five-strong series. “I want to go there and enjoy it,” says the father, farmer and truckie. ‘To have come this far has just been great. It should be fun so you just have to enjoy it.”
He’s confident course designer Heather McDonald will present a fair test but the class is also a chance for riders to qualify for selection at the 2024 Olympic Games, so it will be tough.
Maurice, a previous winner of the series who rode for New Zealand at the world final, has had a real purple patch of a season with his bay gelding. They won at Takapoto and were second on their home track at Dannevirke. “We’re having a good season,” says the Olympian. “I’m backing him but everyone needs a little luck on their side, especially at this level. It should be a good final. I am expecting a challenging and tough track.”
Brooke has twice won the final but never quite managed the series. “I am hoping to do the best we can,” she says. “LT Holst Andrea has been working well for the last couple of weeks, so I hope she will perform on the day. I try and think of it as just another World Cup class so I am not thinking about the end result too much. Anything can happen.”
Tegan finds herself in an unusual position this year. “This is the first time since we started doing World Cups four years ago that we haven’t come into the final in the lead,” she says. “It hasn’t been the season I had hoped for but we’ll be looking for two good rounds in the final – ideally that will be double clear. Each World Cup this season we have finished with a single rail down from the two rounds, so I am looking to tidy that up.”
Their win in the final last season clinched the series for them. She and her New Zealand warmblood Windermere Cappuccino have had two seconds from their three starts, as well as placing third in an Australian World Cup qualifier over the winter.
Also in the mix is young gun Sophie Scott (Palmerston North) and Waitangi Skynet who were second in the final last year and generally finish in the top four. Emelia Forsyth (Clevedon) and her former eventer Henton Faberge are a brave combination with a fourth place their best effort in World Cups this season. Vicki Prendergast (Matamata) and her homebred mare Selena C placed fourth in the final in the 2021-2022 season and will be keen to improve on that. Daniel Blundell (Tauranga) and Cadenza NZPH are in their first full season at this top level but shown they can foot it with the best, as have Sam Whale (Hampton Downs) and Fleur DeLacour who while only have done three qualifiers are jumping superbly. Samantha van Lierde (Cambridge) and Cadillac NZPH round out this top quality field.
The international class is part of the three day Waikato Equine Veterinary Centre Premier Show, which is being hosted by Taranaki Equestrian Jumping at the Egmont A&P Showgrounds. The World Cup final is set to go around 4pm.
The winner of the series has the opportunity to represent New Zealand at the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup final in Omaha, Nebraska, in early April.
POLi Payments FEI World Cup (NZ League) points (after four rounds – just best four to count): Phillip Steiner (Tauranga) 67 points 1, Maurice Beatson (Dannevirke) 59 2, Brooke Edgecombe (Waipukurau) 58 3, Tegan Fitzsimon (West Melton) 46 4, Sophie Scott (Palmerston North) 45 5, Daniel Blundell (Tauranga) 31 6, Samantha Whale (Hampton Downs) 29 7, Julie Davey (Hastings) 24 8, Vicki Prendergast (Matamata) and Samantha van Lierde (Cambridge) 21 =9.
WHAT: POLi Payments FEI World Cup (NZ League) Series Final
WHERE: Waikato Equine Veterinary Centre Premier Show at the Egmont A&P Showgrounds
WHEN: January 28, 2023
LIVESTREAM: via Taranaki Equestrian Jumping on Facebook