Just on 3 weeks ago, we set off for the supposedly warmer climate of Queensland to compete at what is now the best jumping show in the country (just shading out Tempo, but not by much!). The 2 weekends at Michael and Kelly King's fabulous Canungra property Elysian Fields have a real European atmosphere, and a fantastic crowd involvement on the pristine main polo field on the final Sunday that is unequalled anywhere in Australia at this time.
The team of Ulli Klatte as Show Director, and his sister Alex Knight, as Show Secretary form a team that just seem to make everything happen seamlessly, and were able to address any glitches with an amazing efficiency, calmness and good humour that had the show running like a well oiled machine. The giant video screen, again in attendance at the Final weekend, Gary Wilkinson's voice, which as commentetor was one that you could listen to forever, and the presence of an enthusiastic, very competitive Kiwi team were further elements that made this show truly unique on the jumping calender. Graeme Watts undertook the mammoth task of creating courses in all 3 rings (using a lot of material that he had made himself), and all courses were universally praised.
Last year we enjoyed the hospitality of Ulli's property, Belcam, which is 10 minutes drive away, but this year, because of the necessity for the Gold horses to be stabled on site for the Final weekend, and the fact that at my age and stage in life, it is easier to do a show if I don't have to pack up and travel each day, we decided to stay at Elysian. Good decision! The brand, spanking new stables were luxurious accomodation for the ponies, and I could stay in bed til 7 nearly every morning! All 5 that went up, IRISH, RICCI, JANE, BLATINI and CASSIE all earned excellent bows, and sweet CASSIE (NOBLEWOOD PARK CASSINI'S GIRL) went thru the 2 weekends and 6 classes without any sort of fault, and ended up 3rd in the Debutant Final, which was won by Ben Blaye from John Maunder. IRISH and I had a bit of a glitch in the 2nd Qualifier, when my dog CLIFFORD, having slipped his collar in the truck, suddenly appeared at my side as I entered the ring! We'd had an abbreviated warm up anyway due to the closeness of the Silver and Gold classes, so when I sat like a dead duck coming into the double at 7ab, as normally IRISH makes up so much ground, he popped in over the oxer and backed up like I've wanted him to do for ages, and was a mile away from the second part! We managed to finish the round, and luckily JANE was able to atone with a good 4th placing to Kiwi Katie McVean, with Becky Allen 2nd. IRISH made up for things when he was 3rd in the final qualifier to Paul Athanasoff and Kiwi Oliver Edgecombe. In the Sunday Final, he jumped super to be 6th with 4,0, his dumb jockey having him way too close to the planks in the first round, in an otherwise effortless round for him. JANIE felt a bit clagged and had the same planks down, and 2 in the treble that were near the end of the course (maybe I was clagged too, by that point!). Nothing can be taken away from Chuggie's great win on the fabulous VIVANT, although he was only a touch under the time allowed in the 2nd round, and 1 time fault would have put him equal with the fantastic combination of Laurie Lever and DROSSEL DAN, whoe ended up 2nd.
RICCI and BLA were great, RICCI winning first weekend Silver Grand Prix, and then in the Final, the jockey had him a mile away from quite a big oxer in the first round, which was his only fault. He jumped a super fast round in the 2nd round to run 2nd to the only double clear round, Julia Hargreaves on the imported HAYMEN. BLA was super consistent, placing in all Qualifiers, and qualifying second best after Jenny Sheppard on LICARA, so I was happy in my strategy to step her down a level while we still got to know one another. 2 rails in the Final, one my fault, one hers, was a satisfactory finish to the weekend for her. It was great to have new EFA Jumping Technical Director, Gilbert Bockmann there to watch and assist with all the National Squad members.
Then onto Toowoomba, where a small, dedicated team put on an excellent World Cup show. The weather was not so kind, with temperatures being a bit chilly all weekend, and freezing on World Cup night. But the competition was hot, with 29 starters in the World Cup, which I think is the biggest field for a long time, and proves how well the Queensland riders are going now. Anthony Murray built great tracks all weekend, and his debut World Cup effort produced a great class. Laurie Lever on DROSSEL DAN rode the best jump off round i have seen since many of Marcus Ehnings' in the World Cup Final in KL last year, when he won the class from last berth in the 11 horse jump off (5 clears and 6 4 faulters). Tim Armitrano's super little MR INNOCENT was 2nd, and a delighted Amy Graham was 3rd with TRANSATLANTIC. 4th, also double clear was BLATINI, who jumped her socks off, and was very happy to be stepped up again. IRISH was 5th with a 0,4 result, and 6th, another delighted South Australian girl in Wendy Schaeffer, who rode so very well in her first World Cup on the sweet 7 year old mare that she has produced herself, KOYUNA SUNSET. Kiwi Oliver Edgecombe was 7th, and Becky Allen 8th on another Koyuna bred, self produced horse, KOYUNA TED.
RICCI and JANE rounded out my good show there by being 1st and 2nd in the Alan Hodge Memorial Speed Ch'ship, something that meant a lot to me, as 'Hodgie' had been a good mate, and a tireless worker for the sport, both while he lived here on the Central Coast, and later on when he and wife Fran moved to Queensland.
Back home now, and the good guys get a short break, and I get stuck into the young ones again. Melbourne Show the next major item on the agenda, with the Nat. Ch'ships shaping up to be a great event in October.