Sammi McLeod and the 14-year-old gelding Frederick Hunter caused a major upset recently by taking out the 44th Melbourne International Three-Day Event in fine style.
The combination, who are on the Australian squad in the lead up to the World Equestrian Games next year, led the three-star class from the outset with an eye-catching performance in the arena to go into the cross-country phase two points ahead of their nearest rivals, Sydney competitor Amanda Ross and her newcomer Wynella Rialto.
This year’s Melbourne course was testing but Sammi and Fred came home clear and within time to cement their lead.
The final day saw just one rail separating the top three, with the top eight combinations divided by just two fences.
With the going difficult due to rain and a tight track with equally short turns, many doubted whether Sammi would have the experience and tenacity to guide Fred around penalty-free.
As last to go meant contending with slippery conditions on each take-off created from previous horses, but it didn’t phase her, Sammi (who was seventh at Badminton Horse Trials on Hunter Red in 1999) showing why she is firm favourite for the world Equestrian Games’ selection by jumping clear to take out her first major victory on home soil, finishing on her dressage score of 43.6.
Sam Lyle, back from competing in England recently, was placed second finishing on a score of 48.4 with Foxdale Royal Venture, a horse who made many heads turn.
The 1999 Melbourne winners Christine Bates and the careful Masterprint showed national selectors they’re back in form, 1sec time-penalty showjumping pushing them down to third place by the narrowest of margins – 0.4, to complete on 48.8.
However, Sammi admitted that the win was no easy task
“It was the scariest thing I have ever done in my life”, she said.
Scotland’s Pauline McKee and her eight-yea- old Irish Sport Horse Mister Moss (by Golden Years) entered but withdrew prior to the dressage phase.
Australian, New Zealand and a few international competitors will now focus their intentions on Adelaide**** to be held in November.