Sarah Carless reports…
French claims victory in Chatsworth ERM thriller
Britain’s Piggy French claimed victory in the first leg of the Event Rider Masters in a thrilling competition at the Dodson & Horrell Chatsworth International Horse Trials
French set a personal best in the dressage to score 27.3 with Jayne McGivern’s Quarrycrest Echo putting the pair into fourth. The pair then were one of nine combinations to keep a clean sheet in the show jumping, and their speed across country made French only the sixth person out of 1,460 in the history of Chatsworth CIC3* to make the time across the country giving her victory – her first win at this level since 2016.
Speaking after her win French said “I am so over the moon. I was sitting in the truck waiting for my turn and I said to myself “Come on, do something useful. Above all, my horse deserves a great day like this.”
It was an all-female podium with Sarah Ennis (IRE) and Horseware Stellor Rebound fiishing in second and Izzy Taylor (GBR) and Call Me Maggie May finishing third. Dressage leaders Laura Collett and Mr Bass had a rare pole down in the show jumping and picked up 6.4 time penalties from the cross county to finish fourth.
In fact, the top eight positions in the first leg of the Event Rider Masters being held by female riders, with William Oakden being the highest male finisher in ninth with Cooley Ramiro. William Fox-Pitt, competiting in his first Event Rider Masters leg, finished in tenth with My Bay Hero. Speaking after his cross-county William said, “The Event Rider Masters is the most exciting thing to happen to the Sport of Eventing in my time – and that is saying something.”
The 2018 Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials Champion Jonelle Price made it 50 CIC3 star completions since 2008 and maintained her 100% cross country jumping record with Faerie Dianimo, finishing in 22nd place.
French’s victory in the Event Rider Masters was not her only success of the weekend. In one of the four CIC* classes she took victory with Highdown March (Section E), owned by her fiancée Tom March. It was by the narrowest of margins – 0.1 penalties. – but it was enough to put her ahead of Japan’s Katajima Ryuzo and Feroza Nieuwmoed. Tom McEwen finished third with Braveheart B.
Rosie Fry’s long journey from Somerset was made worthwhile by a victory on Nick Engert’s eight-year-old Augusta Firefly in Section F.
Rosie commented: “We’re so lucky to compete in places like this. You always know you’re going to get a good course here and the footing was lovely. Augusta Firefly is quite small but she jumps for fun and is a cross-country machine. My top horse is going to be off all season, so it’s great to have something like this to focus on.”
Second place went to Kirsty Johnston and Opposition Loire and Caroline March in third with Copyright Cooley.
Sarah Holmes also made the long trip to Chatsworth from the Isle of Wight, and she was rewarded with a win Section G with Ellen Brown’s skewbald mare Harley Brown. This put her ahead of Kristina Hall Jackson and CMS Google in second and Ireland’s Austin O’Conner in third with Into The Morning.
Leicestershire-based rider Emilie Chandler was victorious in Section H riding the aptly named Winning Belle, owned by the Eventing Journey Syndicate. “This is one of my favourite events because you can really gallop and jump and it feels special,” said Emilie.
Nat Dixon took second place with Hot Party Juice with Rosie Rickett taking third with Chevalian Duchess.
Ellie Healy from Bamford won the Brigadier Bill trophy for the best Derbyshire rider – finished 22nd in Section F with Midnight Dancer II. She also won the Izzy Squire Memorial Trophy presented by Tracy Dodds in memory of her daughter for the best rider on the East Midlands Junior programme. Izzy, a member of the Barlow Pony Club, was due to compete at Chatsworth in 2016 but she died in a tragic accident while travelling in Vietnam.
The Dodson & Horrell Challenge – the CIC*** classes – was the preserve of 21-year-old Irish rider Cathal Daniels, who won two out of the three sections. He won Section B with the diminutive mare Rioghan Rua and Section C with Sammy Davis Junior.
‘This is some beautiful place,’ said Daniels. “It’s been a great weekend. The mare is very special because I’ve done everything with her and Sammy Davis is super talented and my main hope for Irish squad at the World Equestrian Games.”
In Section B, Daniels beat Pippa Funnell into second place with Billy Walk on with Katie Bleloch in third with Bulano. In Section C second place went to David Doel with Eisfee and Kitty King in third with Vendredi Biats.
The third section fell to world number one Oliver Townend, who rode a perfectly judged cross-country round to finish just one second over the optimum time of 6 minutes 6 seconds. New Zealander Dan Jocelyn took second with Grovine De Reve with Auston O’Connor picking up third with Lucky Contendor.
The Advanced class (Section I) was won by France’s Athur Duffort with Gredington Mailthyme with Tom McEwen in second and Elizabeth Power in third with Samuel Thomas II in third.
Throughout the event, huge crowds of spectators enjoyed great sport and entertainment against the magnificent backdrop of Duke and Duchess of Devonshire’s home. Sam Horrell, CEO of Dodson & Horrell, commented after the event: “We’ve had a thrilling weekend and it’s been an honour to be a part of such an impressive event. Sincere thanks to the army of volunteers who come here each year to support and ensure that everything runs smoothly. It’s been a fantastic weekend and wonderful to see so many competitors and spectators enjoying the atmosphere here at Chatsworth. We’re already looking forward to 2019!”
Photographs courtesy of Hannah Cole