by Heath Ryan | February 15, 2016

7th Dec, 2015

On the 19th through to the 22nd of November 2015 Adelaide hummed with the best riders and horses in Australia competing at the only 4**** Three Day Event in the Southern Hemisphere. This mighty annual event is called the Australian International 3DE CCI****. The director of this performance of excellence is no other than Australian Olympic Gold medallist Gillian Rolton. For those of you who are unaware an international event with a four**** ranking means it is of an equivalent standard to the Olympic games. There are only six of these events in the world not counting the Olympics and World Championships. Adelaide turned out to be the most fabulous weather and had the best riders it was possible to collect in the Southern Hemisphere going head to head. The dressage for the main class on Friday the 20th saw a fierce competition lay down the early scores. First was New South Wales rider Shane Rose riding CP Qualified. Shane scored 71.94% which converted into 42.10 penalties. With Australia trying to climb back into the gold medal position at the Rio Olympics next year we are all very aware that the Germans have four riders who will get under 40 penalties and then complete the cross country and showjumping without adding one more penalty. Not one time penalty, not one jumping penalty. This is an absolutely amazing standard and one that we Australians think we can challenge. Well with Shane in the lead with 42.1 penalties it was simply a loud and clear message that we do have some ground to still make up. Second place in the dressage went to the Victorian Katja Weimann riding BP Flamboyant. This is a horse that was bred by Katja and is a really talented horse. Katja came in with 49.10 penalties. This was a fair way away from Shane. Third place went to Christine Bates riding Adelaide Hill. Adelaide Hill having been bred by the Turner family and carrying Salute bloodlines and Double Cream thoroughbred blood. Christine is a very focused competitor and has had a wonderful year in 2015 in terms of winning big classes with Adelaide Hill. They turn in a score of 49.4 penalties which is very close to Katja. Fourth place to New South Wales rider Katie Roots riding Trevalgar II. Katie bought Trevalgar II in England  where she had been campaigning him for his previous owners. Trevalgar II had a history of lameness and through Katie’s perseverance and corrective shoeing he became the superstar he is today. Katie bought him very cheaply because of his feet issues and Katie’s mum and dad flew Trevalgar II back to Australia for Katie. Trevalgar II and Katie ended up on a score of 49.7 penalties. Very close at the top here. Fifth place went to the gun New Zealand rider Clarke Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation who came in with a score of 50.1. the next seven riders after Clarke were not more than five penalties away with the eighth rider after Clarke Johnstone being last years Adelaide 4**** winner Jessica Manson on her wonderful part brumby Legal Star. This top pack of twelve riders included silver Olympic medallists, past Adelaide winners and a couple of young guns forcing their way into the front running pack pursuing fame and fortune. Cross country day dawned bright and cool on Saturday the 21st November in Adelaide and the air crackled with excitement and the imminence of the cross country challenge. And the cross country was indeed a serious challenge. It was designed by Mike Etherington-Smith who was responsible for the cross

country at the Sydney Olympics and the cross country at the Bei Jing Olympics. Adelaide was big and technical right from the start with the first eight fences asking serious questions like, are you schooled well enough to jump related curving lines, can you jump a massive spread and then curl left on five strides to an apex which was just begging the horses and riders to run out, can you catch a sizable fence sitting right on top of a six foot mound accurately and so land sweetly and poised to reach out for three long strides to a wickedly skinny brush arrowhead, (really, really wicked), did you and your horse have the power and accuracy to gallop over a maximum brush steeplechase fence, and fence eight was this huge giants table over a massive drain that looked as though it came out of Harry Potter and could eat you and your horse. This monster table was under the shade of some mighty gum trees and it did look like serious Troll country and the question was just how much courage and bravery did each competitor and their horse have? Fall a fraction short of the required level and fence number eight just swallowed you up. End of cross country round. Those combinations that passed the challenges of the first eight fences then went on to the rest of the course which all up was 32 fences and this equated to some 40 plus jumping efforts once the combinations were taken into consideration. The course was 6270m with an optimum time of 11 minutes for those riders who were slick enough to average 570 meters per minute for the whole round. Serious galloping. Clear and under time was an excellence only achieved by two combinations. Shane Rose on Virgil and Andrew Cooper on Black Crest.

Shane Rose performed head and shoulders ahead of the rest of the field. Shane piloted CP Qualified around the cross country clear of jumping penalties with just 3.2 time penalties. It was an amazing effort and watching Shane and Qualified come for home was the most exhilarating viewing watching two athletes absolutely bonded throwing themselves at hunting the optimum time with both of them exposing their souls. Qualified ran with every cell of honesty and effort he could possibly conjure up and Shane recognised what a mighty moment he was part of and threw himself at the task yet showed great judgement and skill in making sure Qualified met the last few fences perfectly albeit at full gallop. It was a truly inspiring moment to witness. Shane and Qualified finished day two with a total score of 45.3 penalties. This made Shane Mr Untouchable for day two however day three and the showjumping was still to come. As if this was not enough Shane then mounted up on Virgil his second ride who was running seventh in the dressage on 50.8 penalties and galloped home clear and under time. Amazing. This gave Virgil a second day score of 50.8 penalties and moved him into second place. Shane now had first and second places covered which had never been done before in the history of Adelaide.

Third place went to a mighty round from Clarke Johnstone from New Zealand on Balmoral Sensation with a clear round and four time penalties. This left Clarke on a score of 54.1 penalties all up.

Fourth place went to one of the fastest riders in the world in the form of Western Australian girl Sonja Johnson. Sonja spends most of her life on a sheep station in Albany and then trucks her horses for three days to get to Adelaide. Sonja is all about being a star in the face of adversity. Sonja’s horse Parkiarrup Illicit Liaison, was 15th after the dressage but with a lightning clear cross country round adding just 1.2 time penalties saw her move up significantly with a final second day score of 59.4 penalties.

Fifth place went to Katja Weimann who was second after the Dressage but moved back down the placings with 11.2 time penalties, normally a great performance but such was the ferocity of the competition that Katja found herself losing touch with the top placings. Nevertheless Katja finished with 60.3 penalties which was indeed a magnificent effort.

Sunday the 22nd came faster than anyone could have imagined and the astute spectators knew that today fortunes would change and some people would be packing their floats and trucks with tears of disappointment while others would be exhilarated and marvelling at what a wonderful sport eventing is.

The showjumping did go in reverse order meaning worst score to best score which leant itself to a very exciting finish.

Some of the early riders to go had as many as seven rails down which converted at four penalties per rail to twenty eight penalties. Ouch! It was not uncommon to incur some eight time penalties as well. It was jolly hard to just get around the showjumping course in the time allowed let alone leave all the rails up! At least this gave everyone watching a realistic insight into just how difficult this phase of the Three Day Event is. How influential it is. How much the competition can change in just a few short minutes.

There were ten placings up for grabs and so the whole competition started to get very tense once the top 15 riders started to make their way in for their turn to showjump. The rider coming 15th after the cross country was Will Enzinger riding Britannica MVNZ. Will had one rail down for four jumping penalties and 2 time penalties to finish up on a score of 85.2. This moved Will up into 13th place. 14th  placed rider to go was Katie Roots riding Trevalgar II. This was an absaloute tragedy with Trevalgar taking seven rails and incurring 5 time penalties. This finished Trevalgar on a score of 107.5 penalties and took this superstar combination down to 18th place. What do you say? Everyone was very sad. 13th placed rider after cross country Isabel English on her Connemara pony Feldale Mouse. One rail down and no time penalties see the 20year old Isabel rocket up into an eventual 8th place. What a star! 12th place was Micheala Martindale on Kinnordy Gatow. Micheala, against the odds jumps a clear showjumping round. No time, no rails. This catapults this Western Australian girl up into 5th place. 11th place rider comes into showjump. Will Enzinger and his second ride Wenlock Aquifer. Three rails down and four time penalties hurts like mad and moves Will back a place to 12th. 10th place rider canters into the ring. Soigne Jackson and Gold. One rail down and an uncharacteristic 7 time penalties leave Soigne on a score of 78.4 penalties and they just slip out of the placings to end up 11th. 9th place competitor comes in. Hazel Shannon on the diminutive little chestnut thoroughbred Clifford. Two rails down and no time and Hazel goes up the ladder to 7th place with a score of 74.6 penalties. 8th place getter moves in to challenge the showjumping. This is Stuart Tinney on Pluto Mio who actually came 11th in the world individually at the World Equestrian Games in France last year. Two rails and two time and Stuart slips down a place to 9th with a score of 75.7 penalties. 7th   placed Andrew Cooper and Black Crest come into the ring. Andrew and Black Crest were one of only the two combinations to make the time on the cross country course. Absolutely a magical cross country day for Andrew and Black Crest. Showjumping now and 6 rails down and 3 time penalties shatters the euphoria and Andrew crashes down to 15th place with a score of 92.2 penalties. 6th placegetter after the cross country is Olympic silver medallist Megan Jones and Kirby Park Allofasudden. Three rails down and four time penalties and Megan slides back to 10th place. In comes 5th placegetter after the cross country Katja Weimann and BP Flamboyant. Three rails down and Katja finishes with a score of 72.3 and she slips back one position to 6th.4th placegetter after the cross country Sonja Johnson and Parkiarrup Ilicit Liaison. Sonja makes no mistakes and goes clear jumping, clear time and finishes on 59.4 penalties and 4th place. This really does put the pressure on the three riders above her. One slip and Sonja is ready to move up. Into the ring canters Clarke Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation. This is the New Zealand gun. Clarke is very good and clear jumping and clear time leave them on a score of 54.1 penalties for a third place. 2nd place getter after the cross country is Shane Rose on Virgil. When you’re hot you’re hot. Shane goes clear time and clear jumping to secure 2nd place with a score of 50.8 penalties. The final showjumping round of the day was again Shane Rose and CP Qualified who had lead this competition from the start. Shane actually has a rail down however no time means they finish on 49.3 penalties which is just good enough to remain in first place.

That has to be the best Adelaide ever! Shane Rose is the superstar of the moment and head and shoulders above everyone else. For Australia to win a gold medal at the Olympics in Rio de Janiero next year the scores do still need to improve. Australia certainly has three very young guns firing up into the front running Australian Olympic contenders in Micheala Martindale, Hazel Shannon and Isabel English. Our established superstars of Shane Rose, Sonja Johnson, Megan Jones and Stuart Tinney are all there poised to take their places at Rio. This group is rounded out by Katja Weimann who is a mix of an experienced yet younger rider who is aboard a very special horse in BP Flamboyant. Backing this crew up we do have the English based riders with Chris Burton and Sam Griffiths being stand outs. Rio de Janeiro here we come.