Sarah Carless reports …
Hazel Shannon has taken victory at the Australian 3 Day Event CCI**** with a solid performance with her 11-year-old gelding Clifford.
Enzinger’s gelding, who won a maiden race at Adelaide’s Victoria Park Racecourse back in 2006 over 900 metres, was the first contest the four-star dressage phase and took the lead with 51.80 penalties and held it. “I am really happy being in this position and Aquifer is well prepared for this competition,” said Enzinger.
Hazel Shannon riding the glowing chestnut 11-year-old Clifford took second place with 52.10 penalties. There is nothing extravagant about this Passing Shot gelding, but as Hazel said “he just keeps doing his job, he has the biggest heart”.
Olympic and World Championship FEI Course Designer Mike Etherington-Smith’s cross country course provided huge jumps, technical lines and tight corners, with only six horse and rider combinations jumping clear, and only one combination to finish inside the optimum time of 11mins 25 seconds.
Hazel Shannon and Clifford jumped into first place after a thrilling day of cross country action. While Shannon picked up just 0.4 time penalties dressage leader Wilhelm Enzinger and Wenlock Aquifer slipped into second position, after picking up 3.2 time penalties.
Andrew Cooper had been seventh after the dressage phase, but jumped up to third after he was the only combination to complete the cross country course without incurring any jumping or time penalties.
Shannon said she was generally happy with the way the course rode and her horse performed, commenting; “I was really happy with the horse Clifford today. He tried is heart out, and I couldn’t have asked for more. It was a tough course, but it rode how I thought it would after I walked the course, so that was a relief.
Shannon could have knocked down three rails in the show jumping and still won but the gelding that “always does his job” did just that and added nothing further to his dressage score than 0.4 of a cross country time penalty. Clifford clearly knew where the rails were and, most importantly, kept away from them. In the end, Shannon and Clifford cruised home to a popular victory 14.50 penalties ahead of their nearest rival.
“That’s Clifford to a tee,” explained Shannon. “He is not extravagant in any phase – he just does his job and I can’t ask for more than that. There is a huge amount of training that has gone into Clifford, but his temperament is such that he allows you to train him. It is not just about raw talent, it is the heart and the mind of the horse that matters and this was just another day at the office for Clifford. He keeps trying and trying, and getting better and better.
“It was an amazing feeling,” she said. “Going into show jumping, I just tried to remain focused and concentrate on the job. I didn’t want to know what score Wil and Andrew had after their rounds, as I knew I had to stay focused on my job.”
Wilhelm Enzinger and Wenlock Aquifer finished second with a score of 67.00, after knocking three rails in the show jumping, stretching the gap between first and second place. Yet, he held second position by just 0.7 of a time penalty in front of Andrew Cooper and Evergem Perfection, who finished in third position on a score of 67.70.
Shannon’s standout performance also earnt her the Equestrian Australia Australia Eventing Dual Crown for Eventing. She added 15 points to her six points after her fifth-place position at Melbourne International Three Day Event, giving her an overall score of 21 points for the series. The Dual Crown series was a first for Australia’s equestrian competitors and aimed to recognise equestrian events held at highest level in eventing and jumping throughout Australia.