Blue best for Paget at Melbourne

The Kiwis came, they saw and they conquered all before them at the 2017 Saddleworld Melbourne International Three Day Event, much in thanks to the deeds of a thoroughbred too slow for the racetrack.

The feature CCI3*, which doubled as the coveted Oceania Championship, was captured by Olympian Jock Paget aboard Angus Blue, a retired racehorse that was prepared in New Zealand by Riccarton trainer Pam Robson.

The son of Senor Pete was known as Corsair Bay during his brief racing career and was defeated by a collective 90 lengths in his eight starts but has been a revelation in his second career for Paget, a noted fan of the breed who famously partnered thoroughbred Clifton Promise to win the iconic Badminton Horse Trials in 2013.

The pair performed incredibly across the three phases of the competition at Werribee Park over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend and finished on their dressage score of 46.9, collecting the Racing Victoria-sponsored award for the Best Performed Retired Racehorse in the class. 

There was a little more joy for the local riders in the other three classes of competition staged across the weekend, each of which also carried a prize for the highest placed thoroughbred combination as has become the custom via the Off the Track program. 

While he showed enough promise on the racetrack to warrant a start in the Group 1 Queensland Derby, Testa Rossa gelding Arvan left little doubt that his true calling lies in a different career with his feats in the CCI1* class.

The 10-year-old, who now competes as Darwin Park Echo, performed consistently across each of the three phases to claim a top 10 finish for Andrew Cooper, taking out the Racing Victoria-sponsored award for the best performed retired racehorse in the process.

The former Peter Moody-trained galloper, who ran unplaced behind Dariana in the 2010 Queensland Derby before retiring in 2011 after two wins from 14 starts, had adapted to his new career in brilliant fashion and his connections are confident he will furnish into a top class eventer as he progresses through the grades.

The Racing Victoria-sponsored award in the CCI2* class went the way of former Off the Track Triequithon contender Koko Popping Candy who was ridden into the placings by former Olympian Amanda Ross.

A nine-year-old daughter of Bianconi, the mare raced as Gothic Medusa for Cranbourne trainer Nikki Burke and retired in 2012 after a seven-start racing career that yielded a single maiden victory at Wodonga. 

And after holding the lead in the Junior CCI1* class after cross country, a couple of costly rails in Sunday’s show jumping phase saw young Victorian rider Nicola Payne and her ex-racehorse Qwilliam (Archie Junior) drop to third place on the leader board.

The performance was still enough for the gelding, a talented racehorse than won four races and more than $130,000 in prizemoney for Kalgoorlie trainer Susannah Hoppmann, to be crowned the best performed retired racehorse in the class. 

Full results from the 2017 Saddleworld Melbourne International Three Day Event are available here