The year is turning into a hat-trick special for Olympian Katie McVean.
Aboard her stunning bay mare Dunstan Daffodil, McVean won her fourth Olympic Cup at the 2012 New Zealand Horse of the Year Show in Hastings yesterday - the third consecutive showjumper of the year title for the 25-year-old from Mystery Creek.
The feat topped off a superb show, in which she also won the Lady Rider of the Year, the Silver Fern Stakes and the 5- and 7-year-old titles.
But she was quick to credit Daffodil with yesterday's heart-stopping victory after sweeping aside 24 other top combinations from both sides of the Tasman.
McVean was the only one to go clear in the first round over the challenging course designed by Leopoldo Palacios, of Venezuela.
Twelve came back for round two, with all but McVean carrying faults. It wasn't until the final two that there came another clear round - from Australian Brook Dobbin aboard the lovely big grey Advisor.
It was down to McVean - if she dropped a rail, she'd force a jump-off.
The thousands in the stand rode every jump with the champion, gasping as she rattled the odd jump and barely able to contain themselves as they headed to the final jump.
"She just tried her little heart out," said McVean of 11-year-old Daffodil, who is a half-sister to superstar Dunstan Delphi, on whom she won the Olympic Cup in 2010.
"It sucks to have a sister like Delphi - this is Daffodil's time to shine. It's been the most amazing week - the best ever."
The Aussie visitors took more than their fair share of the top prize money, with Dobbin second, Evie Buller on Yalambi's Landor third and Paula Hamood and Nero GHP fifth equal.
Kiwi Olympians Maurice Beatson (Dannevirke) on the perennial My Gollywog was fourth with Daniel Meech (Taupo) and Carlotta fifth equal.
McVean and Daffodil, with Dunstan Zimoreana G, will head to Australia next week to compete at the Sydney Royal and a couple of World Cup shows.
There was barely a dry eye in the house when McVean steered Dunstan Kiwi Iron Mark (owned by June Berrington) to victory in the Seven-Year-Old of the Year class. Iron Mark was owned by the late Melanie Purcell, who died of cancer at just 24. McVean is riding the horse for Purcell's mother, June Berrington.
It's official - Louisa Hill (Clevedon) is the best dressage rider in New Zealand.
Her triple win at the show cements her place as New Zealand's best Olympic hopeful.
Hill and her super-talented Bates Antonello are the sole New Zealand dressage combination to have qualified for a spot at the London Olympic Games. Vanessa Way (Taranaki) and Jody Hartstone (Raglan) are based in Europe attempting to meet the New Zealand qualifying criteria.
Hot on the heels of Hill's win at the recent New Zealand Dressage Championships, expectations were high - and she delivered. Few NZ dressage riders break the elusive 66 per cent barrier, but Hill racked up scores of 68.68 per cent, 68.62 per cent and a massive 71.05 per cent in yesterday's musical freestyle test.
"AJ was definitely a bit tired today which is quite unlike him, but he had a sleepless night with kids running around letting ponies out which freaked him out. He ended up with a swollen eye and bashed shoulder which wasn't ideal."
Hill heads to Europe in April in the next step of her Olympic campaign.
Annabel Wigley was a comfortable winner of the Eventer of the Year aboard NRM Frog Rock with a beautifully ridden showjumping round to finish 6.4 points ahead of the second-placed Donna Smith (Te Kauwhata) on Henton Executive.
A revised squad of seven combinations was named following the presentation, with the team of four to contest the Trans Tasman Trophy at Kihikihi at Easter weekend named immediately before the competition.