John Thompson and his 14-year old Hanoverian gelding Antonello (by Anamour x Winnebago) became the 2016 New Zealand Grand Prix Championships at the Nationals held at Manfield Park in Feilding, New Zealand, on 5 - 7 February 2016. Thompson won the Grand Prix Special with 69.706% and was second in the Kur with 70.775% to claim the overall title and "Burkner Medal".
The Burkner Medal and New Zealand Grand Prix Championship are a combination of points earned from the Grand Prix Special and the Musical. Thompson just edged out Wendi Williamson by half a point as he finished on 48.5, whereas Wendi totalled 48 points after acing the CDI Grand Prix Kur to Music on the last day of competition.
Wendi Williamson was rapt with her win. She rode very accurately to her music, of which the choreography and tunes don't leave much room for error. Williamson and her 11-year old New Zealand bred Hanoverian Dejavu MH (by De Niro x Anamour) are aiming for the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Bromont. This is the first season at Grand Prix for both horse and rider.
John Thompson was last to go in the kur to music and his horse Antonello showed a huge heart. The bay gelding puts much effort into his piaffe and passage. Their overall win was even more special considering the horse had serious colic surgery only a few months ago. Thompson nurturerd the horse back to full health and Antonello looked fit and full of energy. After his performance Thompson thanked his vet, who was in the audience, saying “Alex, thank you for so much for saving my horse. This is for you.”
New Zealand's most likely Rio contestant, Julie Brougham had a less satisfactory weekend. Her two attempts at gaining her final Olympic qualifying score of 70% in the Grand Prix or Grand Prix Special failed. She won Thursday’s CDI*** Grand Prix but was disappointed with her 68.94 score. The pressure was on for the Grand Prix Special, being her last chance at this show to qualify, but her 13-year old Rhinelander Vom Feinsten (by Fidermark x Weltmeyer) was perhaps a little flat in his piaffe. The chestnut only got back from competing at the 2016 CDI Boneo Park in Melbourne the week before and Brougham made an uncharacteristic course error at the CDI Feilding. She came second to John, who scored 69.706%, in the Special on a score of 66.863%. Vom Feinsten was back to his normal energetic self for the Freestyle, although Julie struggled with his tension in the big atmosphere and he exploded out of piaffe a couple of times. Brougham and Vom Feinsten now have one last chance to qualify in New Zealand, at the Horse of the Year Show in Hastings next month. Failing that they have no choice but to go offshore for their last qualifying score for Rio.
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