Clarke Johnstone bagged the biggest win of his career on Sunday with victory in the CCI4* round of the Mitsubishi Motors Australian International 3 Day Event in Adelaide.
The Matangi Olympian led from the get-go, scoring 45.9 penalty points in the dressage, adding just 8.8 time penalties in the cross country and finishing it off with a stunning clear in the showjumping to take the class on a score of 54.7.
But all the pressure in the world was on him as he rode in for that final round. Just ahead of him, former Adelaide winner Megan Jones and Kirby Park Impress had ridden a cool clear, and he had no room to drop even a single rail.
Balmoral Sensation nudged a couple of early rails, but soon found his groove and Johnstone rode a brilliant clear to take the crown.
“I feel so very lucky to be here,” he said, who was New Zealand’s best individual eventer at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games with his sixth-place finish. “It is something I have strived for my whole life since I started riding – to win a 4* – and to be finally here is the best feeling ever.”
He thanked his parents and grandmother who “own my beautiful horse”, his groom Lydia Beales who he “couldn’t do without” and his team at home.
Johnstone was just the third Kiwi to win the annual event – the only CCI4* in the Southern Hemisphere – the other two being Nick Larkin and Red in 1997 when it was a 3*, and then Matthew Grayling aboard Revo in 2001 when it was a 4*.
Note: The * in CCI4* is not used as an asterisk, turns out it is how these types of equestrian events are named (you would say “CCI four-star” reading it out loud)