NEW ZEALAND (by Sally Reid) Although it doesn’t mark the end of the competition season, New Zealand’s Horse of the Year Show is considered by most to be the ultimate showcase of talent. There were some wonderful performances at Hastings this year, and a huge range of bloodlines on display, including many from Europe.

As the Olympic Cup – Showjumping Horse of the Year, Veroana (Indoctro - Strawberry x Romanoff) is one of the most recognizable horses on the NZ circuit, and has been edging closer to superstardom for the past year. The big, forceful strawberry roan has many fans, so his win in HOY’s most prestigious competition was very popular. It was also one of the most nerve-wracking in the Olympic Cup’s history, and an eye-opening display of young talent under maximum pressure: Veroana is nine, and his rider, Briar Burnett-Grant, is only 17.

After two rounds over Werner Deeg’s 1m60 course, just two horses went into the jump-off: one from New Zealand and one from Australia. Under no circumstances does any New Zealander want any Australian (no matter how nice or how deserving) to take home the country’s jumping honour, so the atmosphere in the stands was anxious to say the least. The Australian pair, Clint Beresford and Emmaville Jitterbug (Park View June Bug - Dina x Daley K) were first out and produced what looked like an unbeatable clear in 46.92. This lovely gelding topped the Australian showjumping leaderboard in 2016-17, and his jump-off at HOY was a pleasure to watch. The challenge was there for Veroana and young Burnett-Grant, and they responded with such ver ve that rails seemed inevitable. However, the pair judged every fence to perfection, racing home clear in 45.79 to make Burnett-Grant the youngest winner in the cup’s history.

The ‘preferent’ Indoctro needs no introduction, and also sired the 2018 six-year- old winner, Monte Carlo MVNZ (see below). How- ever, Veroana’s dam, Strawberry (also known as Bella Rona), comes from a more obscure background. Her sire, Romanoff, was a New Zealand Sport Horse who stood at Waipaoa Station; he was by a stallion called Romeo, though little else of his lineage is traceable. Strawberry was competed by Kylie Unsworth, and later by American Butch Thomas. She went to Wendy Keddell’s Mount View Sport Horses in 2008 with a new foal at foot, bred by Butch’s groom, Linda Taylor. The mare was sold back to Kylie Unsworth. Mount View bought the foal, Veroana, as a two-month-old. “We branded him with the other foals of that year,” says Kedell, explaining Veroana’s distinctive MVNZ brand. “We then sold him to Kylie as a three-year-old.” Kylie and her husband Ike Unsworth competed Vero-ana successfully before selling him to Burnett-Grant at the end of his six-year-old season. Veroana and his new rider won the 2016 seven-year-old HOY title, and they have been jumping GP successfully for just over a year. The pair also won their first start in a World Cup qualifier and finished sixth in the final...

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