The Standardbred section at Horse of the Year was a huge credit to present owners, past owners, trainers and Harness Racing in general. For a breed that has struggled for years to go noticed in the show ring they are certainly making everyone who has worked hard for Standardbred recognition proud.
Change of Pace, the in-hand Standardbred of the Year and runner-up Ridden Standardbred of the Year, for his owner Amanda Burton is lucky to be alive and also lucky to be at this year’s Horse of the Year Show.
The horse, nicknamed ‘Crash’, only just survived a serious bout of colic a little over three weeks ago. Getting through the colic made the win all the more special for Burton. “The vet thought we may have to make that awful call but I spent from 11.30pm until 4.30am walking circles with him until he decided he did want to go to HOY after all.” Burton said he recovered quickly after the ordeal and it clearly didn’t have and effect on him when he won Inhand Standardbred Horse of the Year.
“He is one-in-a-million, and we have had a fantastic season,” she says. The pair won the in-hand title last year too.
Natasha Bol and Alshain took out the much sought after Ridden Standardbred of the Year. It was worth the long trip up from Christchurch for the team associated with the 13-year-old gelding also known as Earl. By Badlands Hanover, Earl came from Dean Taylor’s stables, along with his travel-mate Meads Quaff, who is by the same sire. He was originally owned by Katrina Gosney and was shown extensively from the age of four. Bol took over the ownership around 6 years ago and the duo have formed quite the partnership.
Earl was known as Monkey when he was young as he is the most incredibly cheeky horse. “I left him in the paddock for a few years and then I realised what I had been missing out on,” says Natasha, who has competed with him in dressage classes as well.
This isn’t Natasha’s first trip to Hastings - she came up last year with another horse and has been up here one other time for a shopping expedition. “I aimed for the top three but thought Meads Quaff would win but you never know what will happen.”
There was a tear or two – of joy – for Bol when she was announced the winner.
Meads Quaff, ridden by Cantabrian Katrina Gosney was definitely the favourite going into the final competition, having won the Paced class (both ridden and in-hand) and the Open Class. Unfortunately for Gosney, he decided in the final that he didn’t want to go nicely past some of the spectators (who had been there for the entire competition) and put on a fancy turn or two. “That’s horses,” Katrina said. “He’s lovely and he can be really good but he’s a spunky horse and that is what makes him special.”
The judges, Maree Milliken and Jacqui Wadham, while disappointed they couldn’t award Meads Quaff the champion after that final performance but they were very impressed with their winner and all the horses in the classes. “We’ve got beautiful, quality horses here,” they both agreed. “Alshain had lovely conformation and Natasha rode him beautifully. He had evenly balanced paces,” said Maree.
Nigel Heron won the Best Rider, on Final Mission.
Claire Madden won the best handler with her horse Zanskar. The pair also won the ridden mannered class. Stacey Markham and J D Fortune won the ridden turnout and Nigel Heron with Final Mission won the Best Rider. Cate Thomas’s Beautiful Dangerous won the in-hand mare four years and over and Elaine van den Berg won the Novice class with Albertina Adios.
Markham was there representing her Race Track to Show Hack initiative and was stoked to receive 1st place in Best Presented. “Horse of the Year is a very prestigious show, so everyone works hard to ensure the overall picture of themselves, their horses and their gear is immaculate so to be able to win the best turnout meant a lot to me. I always take pride in presentation and it was such a great feeling to see that pay off.”
New Zealand Standardbred Rising Association chair Katrina Gosney was thrilled to see competitors from all around the country competing.
“I think it was a good turnout and great that we had three south island competitors up there! Our title classes had as many and sometimes more entries than other breeds so I think the standardbreds did well,” said Gosney.
NZSBA Life After Racing ambassador Julie DeFillipi was also on hand to take in the occasion and echoed the sentiments.
“It was great to see a good turnout and the presentation of the horses competing was the best yet. We still have a ways to go but things are definitely heading in the right direction,” De Fillipi said.
With Horse of the Year over for another year our Standardbred showers can hold their heads high for the effort that they put into giving out horses a life after racing.