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New Zealand Eventing World Cup Qualifier This Weekend
Te Awamutu, New Zealand
This weekend New Zealand hosts the first 2006 FEI Eventing World Cup Qualifier to be held outside the northern hemisphere.   The Mitavite Horse Trial at the Kihikihi Domain (Waipa District) will feature New Zealand's only qualifier for this annual 18 linked event series held through-out the globe.

Fifteen leading New Zealand equestrians have entered the competition, which is to be held at the highest level of the sport using the format without steeplechase.

Athens Olympian Matthew Grayling, winner of the two previous New Zealand Qualifiers for the FEI Eventing World Cup and, is hoping to make it three in a row on his 2005 winning mount "Gordon".

Grayling embarks on a quest not only to secure a spot at the FEI Eventing World Cup Final to be held in Sweden in September, but also to impress selectors for the World Equestrian Games held a month earlier in Germany.

A disappointing season last spring meant the pair did not gain a qualification to compete at the World Equestrian Games. Grayling will take every opportunity to impress the New Zealand selectors who will be closely monitoring this weekends event along with the two National Championship Events at Taupo and Wairarapa in the coming weeks.

The pair have already performed very well this season, winning their event and will be aiming to achieve a last minute qualification.  "The FEI World Cup Qualifier at Kihikihi this weekend will be a crucial event for me" said Grayling.

Local rider Chelsey Hawthorn is hoping her little mount Look at That is also on top form for the event. Last year the pair enthralled the crowd as they flew around the cross-country course taking all the direct routes to complete the event in second place.  Since last year's event Hawthorn and "Look at That" have been working hard on their weakest phase, the dressage.

Grayling said that he is very much looking forward to riding the Kihikihi cross-country. "It is a course that has built a reputation for being world class and is well renowned for its innovative jumps. I can't wait to see what they have come up with this year" said Grayling.

Grayling won't be disappointed, as International Course Designer John Nicholson has incorporated a new children's wonderland with bridges and comic characters into the course.  This adds to last years Winne the Pooh theme which included sculptured Roo, Piglet and Tiger figures, each with their own stump houses. Unique to the New Zealand course is the Waka Jump, which is to be the first obstacle fittingly steers riders on their journey. These theme obstacles have become a trademark of the event and are popular with competitors and spectators alike.

The competition begins with the dressage on Good Friday with the FEI Eventing World Cup competitors due on at 2.00pm.   On Saturday, they will tackle the cross-country at approximately 1.00pm.

Easter Sunday from 11am will feature the show-jumping finale. This will include an arena-side Classic Car Picnic offering equestrian action, a blend of live music, fine food and wine in the company of classic and vintage cars. Local crafts people will also showcase their talent with stalls set-up around the arena.

"We hope that people will come along and enjoy all stages of what is really an exciting sport" said event organiser Robyn North, adding "We make it easier for families to enjoy a day out as spectator admission is free".  

The efforts of the event organisers Kihikihi Eventing Inc has not gone unnoticed.  Last month the voluntary organisation was named supreme winner at the TrustPower Community Awards. As this event is also the tenth anniversary of hosting horse trials at the Kihikihi Domain, a double celebration is planned.

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