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Melbourne International 3DE 12/06/99
By Di Gatehouse

Heath Ryan and Gillian Rolton may well have reason to gaze into their cappuccinos at the National Equestrian Centre, Werribee Park on Saturday (12, June). Like many riders competing in the current Melbourne International Three Day Event, they had walked the 3 star cross country course.

The cause for concern is jump number three, a mind boggling combination of two arrow heads and an oxer. Coming early in course the jump calls for absolute judgement and the reality is that most of the top 3 star entrants will fly over it for the simple reason they will apply some grey matter to the obstacle and the horses will be fresh enough to take a bit of notice also.

Ex international rider and course designer, Brian Schrapel has set a course that will test judgement and as current leader Amanda Ross pointed out that while some of the jumps may well look the same as last year little additions are going to alter a stride here and a stride there.

A rider who cheerfully admits she is glad she is in the two star is Robyn Brown who won this event on Mighty Heights several years ago. With Might Heights suddenly losing heart at cross country work and relishing a career change - he is now a qualified FEI dressage horse - Robyn is riding her new Eventer, Bondir, in the two star. "The two star course is quite a nice course but the 3 star is tricky, particularly if you take the straightest way and even if you don't it is still tricky", she said.

As she walked the course in the twilight on Saturday night Amanda was confident that her horse London's Night Owl was capable of coming through in good time. She also revealed the true story behind the ex race horse's name. "He was black and cheeky and one of those people who would stay up all night", said Amanda who in the four years she has owned him has produced a horse that may well challenge her short listed mount, Otto Schumaker.

She pointed out that where Otto is on a speed mission and likes to point out to Amanda that he knows more about cross country than she does, "Bumbles" is far more cautious but an easier ride. He is still very much in the learning stage and Amanda, who is leading the event four points ahead of Shane Rose, intends to take the course on as fast as possible without risking her lead.

As she walked the course Amanda had time to talk about what she feels when confronting jumps that most people would prefer to look at rather than contemplate clearing on the back of a horse. "I am more afraid of messing it up, particularly in my position where I have to sit out there in front and be chased', she said. "It is easier to chase than be chased", she joked.

While the Melbourne International is an all important event as far Sydney 2000 selection is concerned, many riders are having to leave the result to their improvers. This is very much the case for Shane Rose who won the event last year on Bates Its A Knockout. Most horses are turned out after a hectic season and in Rose's case he has left this year's defence of his title to the 10 year old thoroughbred, Kianga. Shane is four points off the pace after the dressage phase staged on Friday and will be in full chase in the cross country.

Kiwi Jo Pedersen is currently lying third. Pedersen is riding the ex galloper Heyerdahl. No stranger to the Aussies Pedersen won at Gawler, South Australia, five years ago riding Stylish Diplomat and without question will be trying to yet again remind Australia of the increasing threat to Olympic supremacy from the Land of the Long White Cloud.

Christine McLeod is in fourth position on Masterpiece, nine points off the pace, while Craig Barrett is sitting if fifth place on Elusive Warlock on 90 points. With the time penalty scoring system being changed from half a point for each second lost to a
full point, anything could happen to the leader board after the cross country.

This year there is a record entry at the Melbourne International which means that Werribee Park is seeing more people camping on sight than before. With the Melbourne weather living up to its reputation and competitors looking for all the heating they can get the electricity supply has blown on several occasions.

Added to that there have been two reported break ins. Pal dog food have entered the arena as major sponsors for the first time. And no wonder for it seems for every rider there is a dog... or ..two ...or three. Dogs have broken into the Pal tent on two occasions to devour the goodies.

On Saturday night Pal kept competitors warm enough. During the afternoon they entertained those who were not riding in the one star or junior event, with a display of the doggie equivelant of the cross country. The Pal Superdogs went through their paces in the indoor arena jumping fences, going through hoops and tunnels and crossing scaffolds against the clock. Needless to say the Kelpies with a traditional yelp on each jump had the pace while the border collies the style. However the dog that wow wowed the traditionalists in the audience was the standard French Poodle. He showed the dignity and pace of a warmblood and as one rider was heard to say, "I would kill for that in my horse". Riders were given the opportunity to enter their dogs in a similiar event so watch this space to see which Events rider owns the fastest dog over obstacles.

On a more serious note Clayton Fredericks riding Sampson still leads the one star ahead of Tarsha Hammond, NSW, on Boo Radley who is one point behind him on 81 points. Clayton who is based in England had a clears cross country. Hammond maintained her position also after a clear round over a cross country course that really tested the more inexperienced horse and riders.

Tim Boland, NSW, has moved up into third place after a clear round while Victorian Bianca Craddock is in fourth place on Rafferty. Rose Read, NSW, who is riding Eccles slipped from third place and out of contention yesterday after chalking up 50 time penalties.