Wednesday, May. 22, 2024

Jones Persists For Adelaide Win

Dedication and determination usually go hand-in-hand with top competitors, and it can certainly be said that this year's Adelaide International CCI**** winner, Megan Jones riding Kirby Park Irish Jester, has plenty of both.

She has competed at a high level for several years, with her most recent win being the Melbourne CCI*** (Australia) in June this year. But until now a win in front of a hometown crowd in the only four-star event in the southern hemisphere had eluded her.

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Dedication and determination usually go hand-in-hand with top competitors, and it can certainly be said that this year’s Adelaide International CCI**** winner, Megan Jones riding Kirby Park Irish Jester, has plenty of both.

She has competed at a high level for several years, with her most recent win being the Melbourne CCI*** (Australia) in June this year. But until now a win in front of a hometown crowd in the only four-star event in the southern hemisphere had eluded her.

Two weeks before the event, Jones’ top horse Kirby Park Hallmark died after being bitten by a spider. Although this is a very rare occurrence, Australia does have some dangerous creatures. During her speech, after receiving her awards, Jones thanked her Australian teammates and Bettina Hoy, who taught at the team training camp leading up to the event, for helping her get through such an emotional time.

Jones also had to contend with a whiplash she received coming out of the water on cross-country. She was unable to turn her head to the left, but X-rays revealed no damage to any bones. With the help of massage she was able to show jump.

Her sister and mother were there to add support, but father Peter Jones, who has been at all previous Adelaide events behind the scenes looking after the computing, was traveling home from New Zealand and missed his daughter’s first four-star win.

A large field of 45 entered the CCI**** section, with 10 of them making the trip from New Zealand. This included the four New Zealand team members to take on Australia for the Trans Tasman Cup.

Many of the starters had an eye on a trip to the World Championships next year while others were bringing along less experienced horses and were pleased to just complete the demanding event.

Irvine-Brown Tops Dressage
As usual, the dressage produced a variety of performances, but the best tests were of a high standard. The scene for a close contest was set with the first 10 being only separated by 10 penalties.

At the end of the first day Jessica Irvine-Brown of New South Wales, riding Belcam Aaberdeen, led with a score of 39.6 from Janelle Pitts of Victoria on Mr Showoff with 43.1. Jones, of South Australia, and Kirby Park Irish Jester were only 0.2 behind in third.

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British course designer Mike Etherington-Smith continued his work in Adelaide with an even more challenging course than last year and several new jumps. Etherington-Smith also designs the Rolex Kentucky CCI****, was the technical delegate at the Athens Olympics and will be the course designer at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Last year’s Adelaide event was the first at the four-star level to be run without the roads and tracks and steeplechase phases, so everyone involved in the top level events had by now gained knowledge in preparing horses to go straight into the cross-country.

One of the most interesting jumps and possibly viewed by the most spectators last year was the Normandy Bank fence in the water in the Rymill Lake complex. This year, with the title of The Lifeplan High Returns, it again was the center of attention. There was a little more distance on top of the bank with slightly bigger rails.

Said Etherington-Smith: “Positive but controlled riding is the order of the day and it should unfold sweetly. The plan is to jump up on the bank and then take off straight away over the rails back into the water–it is not to try to jump it all in one.”

Most of the riders understood this, but not all of them got the message through to their mounts. There was not one fall at this fence, but the number of near misses certainly kept the large crowd cheering on those with the most spectacular recoveries. A couple of horses jumped awkwardly onto the bank, not knowing what to do next and having to be re-presented.

The recoveries were necessary mostly after jumping too big and hard onto the bank and not having space to clear the rails, causing front legs to be left behind the top rail. All horses who did this managed to get their front legs out in front upon landing without depositing their riders in the water. In some cases the recoveries did go on for some distance before horse and rider got back on track and under control again.

An Influential Final Phase
At the end of the cross-country phase Irvine-Brown still led on 40.8, adding only 1.2 time penalties to her overnight score with a brilliant controlled round.

Pitts was still in second with a total of 45.9, and Rebel Morrow riding Oaklea Groover moved up a place to join Jones in third position with 47.7 penalties. Sonja Johnson on Ringwould Jaguar jumped from 12th to fifth after a sizzling round with no jumping and no time penalties.

Matthew Grayling of New Zealand, aboard Gordon, dropped out of contention from fifth after a very neat dressage test, following a fall in the cross-country. Teammate Alex Deluca Olivera and Clifton Checkers moved from 16th up to 10th with 8.4 time penalties.

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Pitts withdrew before the second vet inspection with Mr Showoff being lame.

The show jumping phase proved difficult, with only four horses leaving all jumps standing, but two of those went over time.

Jones and Kirby Park Irish Jester had one rail down but still had room to take the win. Second place went to Johnson on Ringwould Jaguar, fourth placegetters at this event two years ago and fifth in the World Cup CIC last year. A tough horse over cross-country, Jaguar added only 4 penalties to his dressage score.

Morrow and Oaklea Groover had two rails down but finished third. Irvine-Brown on Belcam Aaberdeen came fourth after leading all the way until the show jumping. Although they could afford one rail down, three down saw them disappointingly drop out of the lead. They finished third in this event last year.

Stuart Tinney’s experience showed, taking Vettori from ninth after the dressage and seventh after the cross-country to finish fifth. Another experienced competitor, Wendy Schaeffer, came sixth on Koyuna Sun Magic and seventh on Koyuna Sun Smoke.

A big field in the CCI** class showed the popularity of this level of competition. Emma Dougall rode Dotcom into second position in the dressage and from there was never headed. Tim Boland riding Phantom Pursuit, although in 18th after his dressage test, finished on that score to come home second.

Schaeffer, along with Jones, Johnson and Morrow, won the Trans Tasman Championship for Australia for only the second time in the event’s 20-year history!

The New Zealand team included past Adelaide CCI**** winner, Matthew Grayling, with Andrew Scott, Alex de Luca Oliveira and Katherine Van Tuyl. Chef d’equipe was two-time World Champion, Blyth Tait. While the New Zealand riders are experienced competitors they brought a team of inexperienced horses. Before the event Tait said they were looking for a good performance but to beat the strong Australian team would be outstanding.

With Australian team members filling first, second, third and sixth positions the New Zealand team finished well behind with their best rider in ninth.

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