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Melbourne International 3DE 13/06/99
By Di Gatehouse

Slippery conditions and a tight course cut the field dramatically in theCCI** cross country phase of the Melbourne Three Day Event currently being staged at the National Equestrian Centre, Werribee Park.

The lead has changed hands with Amanda Ross and London's Night Owl slipping from first to third place after horse and rider parted company in the rose garden of the Werribee Mansion. Despite the beauty of the garden itself and appearance of the jumps set up there by designer Brian Schrapel, the combination has caused some undignified landings during the event. However Amanda managed to keep herself in contention by successfully appealing against a decision that she was within a the jump area when she actually fell off.

"Bumbles" had a bit of slip, Amanda's hands actually slipped on the rein, he went to "starboard" while she went to "port" and bingo. "If I had let him go straight I would have been alright", said Amanda. She finished with 22 time faults which didn't help considering the steady performance that Masterpiece and Christine MacLeod put in to move up to the lead after a clear round.

Very few got through without time faults, the only other two being Judy Claire on Smart Enough and Shane Rose on Wayfarer. Rose who won the event last year was in second place on Kianga but the pair had a fall early in the piece and finished up by walking home. Overnight Wayfarer was 15 points off the pace and 13 behind Kianga but after his clear round Rose has moved Wayfarer up to sixth position going into the show jumping phase tomorrow ( Monday). Ahead of Rose is David Middleton who guided Number 10 through with just 7 time penalties which considering the rest of the field was quite moderate.

An ability to take things calmly paid dividends for the super Mum of the event, Judy Clarke. A mother of 4 children who age between 25 and 11 Judy proved that a little bit of trust can go a long way when it comes to horses. She bought Smart Enough when he was three and half, the idea being that he would be ridden by her daughter Kim. As it turned out Kim did not develop all that much interest so Judy decided she would take on the horse as her own. She found him to be a very safe hunter and still follows the hounds on him at the Sydney Hunt Club.

"Actually that is where I first started riding when I came to Australia", said Judy who is from New Zealand. This is the first three star event for both her and Smart Enough who is now a ten year old. "I am just wrapped to be where I am now", said Judy who has moved up the leader's ladder to hold fourth position after lying third before Amanda's successful appeal. When asked about her sponsership Judy proved her humour matches her riding ability. "I get some discounts from Elders on feed, like a dollar a bag ", she joked.

For Christine MacLeod yesterday's cross country result comes after a battle to get Masterpiece back on the road after hoof surgery for a tumour. Masterpiece was on the EFA selection list before developing the tumour in 1995, which was last time he competed at Werribee. Since then he has competed lightly until the Adelaide International last year where he and Christine retired after going for a swim in the water jump. Since then the pair have had lots of practice going through water, which paid off yesterday as Masterpiece took both water jumps in his stride.

Christine put herself in a possible position on Friday after Masterpiece turned his best yet dressage test and finished with 89 points. From all accounts Masterpiece can be contrary but on Friday he showed the better side of his nature. "Sometimes he behaves like an FEI dressage horse, other times he can behave like a pony", said Christine.

Prue Barrett who is no stranger to Werribee having won this event before is sitting in second place on Wendala Jackman, seven points off the pace, after completing the cross country phase with a 2 point time penalty.

While there were a number of falls no one was seriously injured, although Michael Baker and Blackjack gave the crowd and no doubt themselves some very anxious moments after failing to take the Sunup and Sundown jump, of which the first part is a narrow ditch obtacle. What ever happened, Blackjack finished cast in the ditch but remained calm as the crash crew used ropes and manpower to dislodge him from his undignified postion. However once extracted the horse walked home looking a whole lot calmer than those around him.

Olympic gold medalist Gillian Rolton made a tough and rather a heart rending decision after the steeplechase yesterday. She withdrew Red Jarrah after he put in a sluggish performance over the course. Gillian said she will not pursue Olympic selection with "Red" but will concentrate on the New Zealand bred Endeavour. "He will never make it" said Gillian of the big red chestnut. "He is a big bouncy horse and is hard to get around tight turns", she said. "I guess I have been spoiled with Fred", said Gillian making reference to the big grey Peppermint Grove who carried her to two Olympic gold medals. "He was so good". "But the little guy (Endeavour) is going to be great", she said. Gillian plans to work Endeavour up for the Sydney Event which is to be staged as a test run of the venue for the Sydney 2000 but will be a tough despite being a two star event. As Endeavour  is now qualified for CCI*** Gillian also plans an assault on the Adelaide International.