Frank Aldridge has good reason to feel happy about his decision to swap motorbikes for horses.
He was one of a number of Wairarapa riders contesting the New Zealand endurance and competitive trail riding championships in the North Canterbury township of Hawarden and came away with the national 100km CEI one star title as reward for his efforts.
Aldridge is no newcomer to endurance racing, only most of his previous experiences had been on motorbikes. In fact, he is only in his second full season on the horses and his victory on Meremini Finale at the nationals provided a classic illustration of his ability to handle the pressures of the big occasion.
To say the 100km event was closely fought would be a major understatement. It came down to a sprint finish with Aldridge
and Meremini Finale clocking 5h 45m 40s, placing them just 31s ahead of second-placed Susan Reid on AA Oscar. And Robyn Kenrick and Playdough were only another 13s back.
A second Wairarapa rider among the 21 to qualify for the 100km race was Lynda Kessell on KD Migal. They eventually came ninth in a time of 8h 32m 12s.
The 160km CI three-star feature event ended up with a field of 12, including Wairarapa's Jenny Champion and Freckles.
It was the eighth time they had qualified for this event with two firsts and two seconds already in the bag. Again they made a bold showing, coming fourth with a time of 10h 14m 29s. It is understood Freckles will be retired at the end of this season.
The winner was Sian Reid on Mauku Mystique in 9h 46m 36s.
Wairarapa had two combinations qualify for the 120km CEI two-star race and they both did well.
Tessa Deuss and Orica came second in 7h 48m 32s and Caroline Barber and Barack Obama were fourth in 8h 21m 33s.
Angela Ibbotson was the sole Wairarapa representative in the CTR intermediate race over 38km and she rode Sky Pilot into fifth place.