Australian Raider Means Business At Kihikihi
Te Awamutu, New Zealand
Photo: Jan Sutherland/FEI
As in 2009, Jones and her Kirby Park Irish Jester led from the start. They scored a clear Dressage lead of 7.6 penalties over another former Kihikihi winner, Clarke Johnstone, on Orient Express, which gave them the luxury of being able to take a long route at fence 3 on the Cross-Country.
However, this still only cost them 3.6 time penalties and they went into the final Jumping round with a two-fence lead, although this proved unnecessary, as they jumped clear, finishing 21 penalties clear of their nearest rival, Heelan Tompkins (NZL) on Major Difference.
Last year, Jones was prevented from travelling to the Final in Poland due to quarantine restrictions. Now, no doubt inspired by the new format for the HSBC FEI World Cup Eventing, in which the top 15 riders in the series share the US$180,000 prize-pool, Jones, the sole Australian visitor at Kihikihi, will contest the next event, at Sydney in her home country (7-9 May), with a strong advantage over her compatriots and an exciting chance of dominating the series again.
John Nicholson's beautifully presented Cross-Country course, with its strong emphasis on accuracy, proved as influential as usual, and there were only six clear rounds from the 13 who started. Five riders withdrew after Dressage, Johnstone with Orient Express and 11th-placed Heelan Tompkins (NZL) with her Olympic horse Sugoi, who is entered for the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event.
Alice Montgomery, riding Gordon, moved up a place to second with the joint fastest time of 3.6 penalties; Johnstone went up six places to 9th on the seasoned Oakley Vision with 5.6, and Tompkins leapt eight places to 12th on Major Difference with 6.4, but these were the only ones with penalties in single figures and no one achieved the optimum.
Matthew Grayling (NZL) dropped from 4th to 9th place on NRW Lowenberg with two refusals.
Tompkins' meteoric rise continued when she jumped clear in the final Jumping phase, moving up to the runner-up spot ahead of Johnstone, who had one rail down, and Montgomery, who had an unfortunate time with 8 Jumping penalties and 6 time.
Megan Jones is likely to play a leading hand in the Australian challenge at this year's Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in September. She was the highest placed Australian rider at the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong, winning a team silver medal and finishing 4th individually. Jones, who has travelled to Europe to compete in the 4* events there, works on her family's Irish Sport Horse stud in southern Australia. Kirby Park Irish Jester, her partner in Hong Kong, is home-bred.
1 Megan Jones/Kirby Park Irish Jester (AUS) 39.4 + 3.6 + 0 = 43
Current standings (after 2 of 12 events)
1 Mara Dean (USA) - 71 points
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