The final phase of the innovative Event Riders Masters was the last to run cross country this afternoon. With perfect going only bordering on soft in places, combined with the knowledge of the cross country results from the standard CIC*** section, riders knew clears inside the team would prove essential to top the leaderboard.
At its peak viewers from 98 countries were watching the live coverage on eventridermasters.tv as the competition came to a dramatic conclusion. Following this morning’s showjumping 6 combinations withdrew including 8th placed Sarah Bullimore (Reve Du Rouet). William Fox Pitt (Cool Mountain) and the remaining 4 withdrew following disappointing showjumping rounds so saving their horses for another day.
The cross country order was in rough reverse order for the first 9 horses and then in exact reverse order for the top 20. This format ensures the winner is not known until the last combination cross the finish line. Early starters generally didn’t push for the time opting instead for confidence building clears but Matthew Heath riding The Lion were on a mission from the start to finish just 2 seconds over the optimum time which saw them sit in a top 3 position for some time before slipping to eventual 14th place.
Katie Preston a Bramham first timer aboard her own self produced 9yo Templar Justice produced a classy confident round to just pick up 8.4 time faults to add to their dressage score. Although finishing in 18th they are surely a combination to watch. Another Bramham first timer Harriet Dicken unfortunately did not fare so well, despite surviving a sticky moment after being too fast at the step bounce combination they stopped at the next fence which followed quickly after before subsequently being eliminated for cumulative refusals. Last of the first timers was Simon Ashworth on his former hunt horse Sunny III, their round was slow but they got the job done picking up 20 jumping and 24.4 time for eventual 26th place.
Olivia Wilmot looked very confident on her seasoned campaigner Cool Dancer. Unfortunately the lack of blood in his breeding showed as even though Olivia was clearly pushing for the time they still finished 15 seconds over picking up 6 time penalties for eventual 16th. Next to start Paul Tapner on Kilronan never looked in doubt of being the first inside the time though and he did so comfortably with 4 seconds to spare. Oliver Townend’s round on Noteworthy was sticky throughout as the horse showed his greeness at the level including at the Equitrek roundhouse & leap and again through the hollow before then breaking the frangible pin and therefore incurring 11 pens at the Speedy-Beat Double Feat oxer. It was clearly Oliver’s experience that carried the horse round but it looked far more confident by the final few fences. Unfortunately though the 11 penalties dropped him down the order to 15th. Blyth Tait and Xanthus III were held on course whilst the pin was repaired but this did little to interrupt their flowing round adding only 1.2 time penalties.
NZB Campino and Mark Todd were the only combination to retire after Campino jumped to the side of part D of the Equitrek Round House and leap fence instead of over. Currently on form Gemma Tattersall was next on course with Santiago Bay, initially early on she was fighting for his head which resulted in standing off early on at the combination at fence three, but she then settled well but the early arguments led to them picking up 1.6 time penalties. At this point the clears inside the time started to come thick and fast, first Astier Nicolas who rode Molakai beautifully maintaining a rhythm around the course, then Vittoria Panizzon and Borough Pennyz, albeit they were a little untidy at times when Penny looked to take control. They were closely followed by Laura Collett on Mr Bass. Laura rode boldly early on including a very forward 4 strides at the Speedy-Beat Double Feat. She was lucky when Mr Bass left a leg going in to last water but they recovered well to stay clear and finish 3 secs inside the time.
Nicola Wilson was enjoying a lovely round until the the final water where Annie Clover stopped at the B element the swan at the last moment. Although they completed the 20 penalties plus time proved very expensive dropping them outside the top 20. Maxime Livio riding Pica D’or was by the pure definition the flying Frenchman! They were perhaps a bit too quick into hollow but thankfully clear through it and went on to finish 4 secs inside time to take lead. Pippa Funnell followed aboard her previous European team ride Mirage Delle, although they set off fast Mirage Delle was a bit opinionated over the choice of speed meaning Pippa was left fighting to bring him back at times, this wasted time so even though clearly pushing to get time the time they finished 4 seconds which resulted in her dropping a place behind Maxime for eventual 7th.
Ros Canter who impressed at Burghley on Allstar B did so again looking supremely confident over the track. They never looked to rush and Allstar’s natural long stride was deceivingly fast resulting in them finished 1 second under time and best of the Brits in eventual 5th place so equalling their best result at this level. Bill Levett (Shannondale Titan) left Ros looking nervously on as a single second over the time would push Bill below Ros on scores. Shannondale Titan caught a knee through last water but kept balanced and moving with Bill pushing the 13 gelding up the last hill resulting him finishing bang on optimum time to stay ahead of Ros.
Izzy Taylor was the best placed Brit after showjumping with the green but talented Be Touchable. Although they were quick to start, Izzy really had to kick to jump the final part of the Equitrek round house and leap fence and the horse’s inexperience was highlighted with a run out at the triple brush B element of 11 the hollow and a second at the corner at the Speedy-Beat Double Feat corner.
Jonelle Price aboard Faerie Dianimo and Clark Montgomery on Loughan Glen both flew around the course to finished comfortably inside the time. In Clark’s case he was massively up on clock throughout and even with slowing for last 2 fences he finished a full 20 seconds under the time for the fastest time of the day to finish 2nd.
Last to start was showjumping leader Alex Hua Tian. He had already thrown the stats book out of the window by showjumping clear in the morning, and was now on a mission to do the same again XC as Don Geniro had never previously been inside the time in a 3*. From the word go Alex rode positive & forward in a consistent rhythm throughout taking the shortest routes possible, but the pair didn’t look rushed and looked particularly class through the Speedy-Beat Double Feat combination. Alex Not interfering allowed the rangey gelding to power home 4 seconds inside the time to take the victory and £16,000 winner’s purse. Alex credited Don Geniro’s showjumping improvement since Chatsworth to a key lesson with Corrine Bracken whom helped with their SJ strategy. He also credited his team at home as he had spent week in china in last few weeks on media duties ahead of Olympics, especially girlfriend and today groom Sarah.
The Event Riders Master series next travels to Barbury International Horse Trials at the start of July for the third leg. Remember to keep tuned in to the website eventridermasters.tv for the latest news and updates.