As we wrap up the Melbourne Spring Carnival at Sandown this Saturday, another arm of equestrian sport is just getting warmed up as the 2017 Mitsubishi Motors Australian International 3 Day Event (3DE) gets set to steal the spotlight in Adelaide this weekend.
This prestigious competition is part of the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI) Classics series which brings together the elite of the international equestrian Eventing circuit on six four-star Eventing competitions held annually in France, Australia, USA, Great Britain and Germany.
*Hazel Shannon & Clifford in action. Image courtesy equestrian.org.au
The 3DE is Australia's premier annual equestrian event and features world-class competitors in the disciplines of dressage, cross country and showjumping. With masterclasses, celebrity course walks, entertainment, as well as the Godolphin Racehorse to Sporthorse Exhibition, it is a Spring Carnival of a slightly different kind.
If recent news articles are anything to go by, all eyes will be on 25 year old Newcastle resident Hazel Shannon and her 12-year-old ex-racehorse gelding, WillingaPark Clifford.
Returning to defend their title in the CCI4* (Four star events have the highest ranking) and potentially become the first combination in the event's 20-year history to win back to back, the pair's fantastic form has delivered wins at five of their past nine competitions since August last year.
Bred in Tasmania by Sue Deveraux, Clifford originally showed so little promise as a racehorse that he did not even make it to a race. Sent to Sue's sister's equestrian centre in Newcastle to try an alternative career, Clifford and Hazel came together in 2011 and as they say, the rest is history.
Whilst there is apparently nothing extravagant about this horse (I wouldn't know, I love watching the sport but dont really understand the technical requirements), Hazel has said “he just keeps doing his job, he has the biggest heart”.
Around Australia, Off-the-Track racehorses feature heavily in equestrian competitions, with thousands making the transition after careers in thoroughbred racing. As well as nationwide funding derived from compulsory prizemoney allocations, each State has its own designated transition, education and promotion program, including Racing Victoria's Off The Track and NSW Thoroughbred Rehabilitation Trust. There are also hundreds of retrainers and rehomers dedicated to thoroughbred welfare and productive practices to successfully place horses in new homes.
Champion Group One winning racehorses Scenic Blast and Grand Armee are amongst those animals that have had successful second careers in the eventing world. Stuart Tinney won Gold at the Sydney 2000 Olympics on Jeepster, an ex-racehorse who had 22 race starts under the name of Delphic Oracle.
At last year's 3DE, Hazel won the Equestrian Australia Eventing Dual Crown, whilst Clifford took out the South Australia Off-the-Track Award for the best performed thoroughbred in the competition. Clifford was also awarded the 2016 Australian Domestic Horse of the Year and Eventing NSW Horse of the Year.
We wish them, and all competitors, all the best of luck at the event.
*Grand Armee had a great career on and off the racetrack. Images courtesy HKJC, Limitess Lodge.