Clarke Johnstone Maintains Lead Through Australia International 4* Cross Country

Clarke Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation. Photo courtesy of the Australian International 3DE.

Clarke Johnstone and Balmoral Sensation are still sitting atop the CCI4* leaderboard at the conclusion of Australia International’s cross country day. The pair added 8.8 time faults to their winning dressage score and will head into show jumping on a 54.7.

“It was right up there,” Clarke remarked. “It was hard.”

The Mike Etherington-Smith designed cross country track wound its way from the main arena down through the trees, creeks and lakes of the beautiful Adelaide Parklands. Check out a Cross Country App preview of the CCI4* course with audio from Mike and Sam Griffiths here.

Clarke and the 13-year-old NZ Warmblood gelding owned by the Johnstone family have a well-established partnership; Balmoral Sensation was his 2016 Rio Olympic mount, where they finished 6th. They finished 3rd at their first four-star together, the 2015 Australian 3DE, and 6th at their most recent outing at the level at Badminton last year.

“He is always pretty wild before the cross country,” Clarke said. “He is always pretty wild before the cross country. I could hardly control him this morning at the first warmup, but once he gets out of the start box he is completely focused, 100%. He doesn’t notice anything at all except what is in front of him. I am really lucky to ride that horse.”

Sonja Johnson and her young but talented Misty Isle Valentino rose from 14th position after dressage into 2nd on the wings of a clear round with two time faults. Sadly, the horse she left the box in 2nd place on, her longtime partner Parkiarrup Illicit Liaison (“Ben”), sustained an injury during the gallop from the penultimate to the final fence on course after which they retired. Sonja later reported on her Facebook page that it was a rupture of the medial retinaculum, a hock ligament, and that the outlook was favorable. “The vets have been great,” she wrote. “I have been told horses have recovered and gone four-star again.”

Sonja rode the latter first and Misty Isle Valentino second, and commented on her day of mixed fortunes: “I think it was a pretty exciting run for a young horse and I wanted to do him justice and stayed focused, but I must admit that my first question when I crossed the finish line with Valentino was ‘How’s Ben?’ even though I knew there was nothing else I could do. He was in good hands with the Australian team vet Nathan Anthony and his owner (Nikki Harwood).”

The 3rd and 4th positioned pairs had big leaps up the scoreboard as well. Stuart Tinney and War Hawk moved from 15th to 3rd having just two time faults, while Andrew Cooper and Tasman Park Ovation moved from 16th to 4th with one of only two fault-free rounds of the day.

Fourteen of 20 cross country starters completed the course, with a small scattered handful of problems throughout. The biggest troublemaker was the ABC combination at fence #8, the Horse Deals Hayracks and Double Corners, which course designer Mike Etherington-Smith called “a real rider fence” and “one of the more difficult combinations on course.” It was the site of four refusals and one rider fall. View the cross country fence analysis here.

It was a bittersweet day for Adelaide International, as the event’s director of 10 years and two-time Olympic gold medalist Gillian Rolton passed away in the mid-afternoon after a two-year battle with cancer. As a rider, official, organizer, selector and coach, Gillian was an incredible figure in both the Australian and global eventing community. We thank Gillian for all of her contributions to the sport, and the entire EN team sends its most sincere condolences to the Rolton family today.

The Australian International 3DE continues with show jumping tomorrow. Best of luck to all competitors!

Australian International 4* Top 10 After Cross Country:


Australian International 3DE Links: WebsiteCross Country Results, Show Jumping Order of GoScheduleFEI TV