“I have a theory that if you’re not going forward and bettering yourself, you’re falling behind,” says Victorian campdrafter Mat Holz. A few years ago, Mat made the trek from West Gippsland to outback Queensland to compete in the prestigious Cloncurry Challenge – and it was an eye opener.
“Going there and seeing how those guys had their horses going, and then coming home and realising that my horses were nowhere near good enough yet… I knew that I needed to better myself and my horses, so I set about trying to do that.”
It seems that Mat has been successful in his endeavour. Partnered with Graeme and Jody Rozynski’s Nonda Last Frontier, he rode to victory at Willinga Park’s fourth World Championship Gold Buckle Campdraft – the richest of its kind in Australia, with a $100,000 winner’s cheque on the line.
“It’s quite hard to believe if you look back on it,” says Mat of his recent win. “You look at it and just wonder whether it did actually happen.” When he posted a score of 89.66 as the third-last to run in the final, he knew he was up there but wasn’t quite sure whether he’d topped the leader, Hugh Miles riding Chic Acres.
It wasn’t until after the last horse had run that he found out exactly where the chips had fallen. “I wasn’t 100 per cent sure, so I was sitting quietly waiting for those last couple of rounds. It’s a strange feeling to win an event of that magnitude. There’s a lot of satisfaction and happiness in being able to achieve something like that. It was hard to believe what unfolded and how things fell in place.”
Mat and Frontier added to their semi-final score of 89.66 to post an aggregate of 179.32; Hugh and Chic Acres’ aggregate was 179. “I felt for Hughey. I know what that’s like to be in that position, whether you just get knocked off or whether you just fall short… and you magnify that with the event that it is, the prestige and money that is there. A third of a point, it’s not much.”
Mark Buttsworth riding Yulgilbar Agile Playgirl placed third with a score of 178.33, with the pair also recording the highest aggregate across the whole event.