OF the 50 starters in last weekend’s Horsepower 1.15m Grand Prix, just 10 riders were clear and through to the second round.
Sarah McMillan from Yarramalong, NSW and the striking Colourbond were first out and the tough track cost them two rails.
Katie Clarke returned to the arena a few riders later with Oaks Gunn, the first to go clear in a time of 50.07 seconds.
With only a few riders to go, Clarke looked set to win the class, but James Mooney from Kulnura on the Central Coast put his foot down aboard the lovely mare Green Grove Dilandra and rode some great corners to take nearly five seconds off Clarke’s time.
Englishman Ernest Connell’s amazing time of 44.09 made him and Kitara Bellefon the fastest of the four faulters to finish in third ahead of local jumping legend Ron Easey on The Rooster and KB Charlie.
With such big classes, the organisers made the decision to switch the order of events, electing to run the Peel River Produce Grand Prix next to take advantage of the crowds gathered in the indoor.
20 combinations hit out over the track that had a massive triple combination, a huge wall, water trays and the new Golden Guitar feature fence.
Defending champion Easey was first onto the course with one of his three rides in the feature event.
Simplistic thrilled the crowds with a clear, putting them straight into the second round.
Jess Brown from Kulnura, NSW followed with Casco, also going clear.
Jake Hunter from Singleton, who recently hit the big time from the junior ranks, joined them on Kelstar.
Six more combinations joined them, including both Easey’s and Brown’s second horses.
The second round was filled with tight turnbacks and the lines riders chose were the determining factor in the final standings.
Easey and Simplistic showed the rest the right lines, posting a great time of 55.93 seconds, but an unlucky rail took the pressure off the rest of the field.
Clarke was thrilled to jump clear over the fences on Magic Master, just one time penalty added to her score.
Brown’s Casco also knocked a rail but her time was better than Easy’s by 0.31 of a second.
Brown and her second horse Equus Echo made the course look easy, cruising into the lead with a clear in a time of 53.26 seconds.
Nic Carraro, a quietly-spoken rider from the Central Coast of NSW entered the ring with Colombo knowing he had to ride quick and clear to win the class.
With two very fast riders to follow, speed machine Hunter and Easey, and Brown clear in the lead, Carraro hit the accelerator.
Colombo didn’t disappoint, jumping clear in an amazing time of 52.99 seconds.
Easey re-entered on Made You Look and was determined to win to reclaim his title.
He threw his body on the line, literally, taking a spine- tingling fall over the last fence when Made You Look didn’t quite make the tight turn asked of him.
The final rider, Hunter, came out running and was clear with Kelstar but not fast enough to topple the leaders, ending in third place, leaving Carraro with a very popular victory.
The Peter Hoffman Memorial Cup took place straight after the Grand Prix.
James Mooney topped the class with his lovely stallion JB Evolution.
Hunter backed up his Grand Prix success with second place on Lucky Lucianno and Easey showed the tough stuff he is made from, riding Simplistic with a dislocated shoulder into third place.
Hunter returned to the ring for the Healthy Inspirations Young Rider Class held under lights for Saturday evening’s entertainment.
Hunter and La Laina were victorious ahead of an impressive line-up of talented young riders.
Emily Patterson from Queensland was second on Noble Eros and fifth on Little Wick.
Sarah McMillan and Queen of Diamonds were third followed by Steph Mackillop from Terrey Hills, NSW and Alcheringa Tradition in fourth.