Catherine Neill has won the prestigious 83rd Garryowen Equestrienne Turnout riding former racehorse SLM Mercedes, at the Royal Melbourne Show today.
Conducted annually by The Royal Agricultural Society of Victoria (RASV) as part of the Horses in Action Program, 23 talented riders competed for the prestigious honour in front of a packed grandstand, at Melbourne Showgrounds this morning.
Catherine, who hails from Gisborne in Victoria, said when accepting the award that the win was unexpected but very welcome.
“It is mindblowing, I can’t put it into words but it’s a great honour,” said Catherine, before adding that she had long-admired her winning ride before purchasing him over a year ago.
“I’ve had (SLM Mercedes) for 18 months – he was basically my dream horse and he’s been an amazing horse for me. He had a good workout this morning but I couldn’t have asked anything more from him. He was amazing.”
The Garryowen which was first held in 1934, honours Mrs Violet Murrell, who tragically died at age 29 while trying to save her three-time Royal Melbourne Show champion saddle horse, ‘Garryowen’, from a stable fire in 1934.
Second place was awarded to Jess Stalling riding DP Polo, with third place awarded to Rebecca Farrow on Stage Presence, for the second year running.
Best First Year Rider honours were awarded to Annalisa Phillips on Balledor Encore after an impressive workout.
The winner of the Garryowen receives almost $8000 in prizes including a gift prize and woolen quartersheet from premier sponsor Stubbs England. The prize also includes a 9-carat gold diamond encrusted pin, generously donated by Sally Murrell-Rich with a custom designed glass dining-ware set from Marguerite Dore, both grandnieces of Mrs Murrell; a watercolour portrait of the winning horse by Michelle Bird; a Cedar Lodge trophy rug, a garland by HM Garlands and a replica of the perpetual Garryowen trophy.
RASV CEO Mark O’Sullivan said the event is not only the most prestigious female riding event in the country, but also one of the highlights of Royal Melbourne Show’s 11 day program.
“The Garryowen has a long and prestigious history of recognising the country’s best female riders and we are delighted to add Catherine to our list of winners,” said Mr O’Sullivan.
Other sash winners included Jemima Draper on Havenleigh Park Furst Knight in fourth place, Stephanie Barrington on Daly Downs True Colours in fifth place and India Mitchell on Royalwood Centre Stage in sixth place.
The event is open to female riders aged 18 years and over and a panel of six experts judged each rider and horse on conformation and soundness; manners and paces; saddlery; costume; riding ability; and general appearance.
The Garryowen Equestrienne Turnout is part of the Royal Melbourne Show’s dedicated turnout day, which also included the Esquire, John Lithgow, J. Pemberton and K.G Luke turnouts.
The Royal Melbourne Show’s Horses in Action program continues tomorrow with Saddle Ponies and Junior Riding Events before wrapping up with the Sporting Horses Australian Championships on Tuesday.