IMAGES COURTESY OF HANNAH COLE PHOTOGRAPHY
Driving rain was the order of the day on Sunday, resulting in challenging conditions for the final show jumping phase of the three-day eventing classes.
It was all change at the top of the leaderboard in the CCI3*. A fence down apiece for the top two after cross-country, Tom McEwen with Strike Smartly and Izzy Taylor with Director General, opened the door for New Zealand’s Tim Price with Mrs Therese Miller, Jo Preston-Hunt, Philip Hunt and Miss Kate Maitland’s Pats Jester. They show jumped clear to move up from third after dressage and take the win on 28.5.
“He was good, wasn’t he?” asked Tim after his win. “He’s a horse who has always been a bit under the radar but he’s very consistent in his work. He’s a really classic jumper, super fit and he just popped round the cross-country yesterday – I’m very proud of him.”
Tim will probably move the 10-year-old up to 4* level next season if all goes according to plan.
Cross-country leaders Tom McEwen and Strike Smartly dropped to second place after lowering the planks, the same fence he also lowered on his other ride Figaro Van Het Broekxhof. “I just couldn’t jump planks today,” rued Tom. “I can’t fault either horse though.”
Third place went to Izzy Taylor and Director General: “I’m very pleased,” said Izzy. “He had a fence down but that can happen to any good horse. He’s still got a lot to learn but he’s phenomenal across country and a very exciting horse for the future.”
The top three in this section remained unchanged after cross-country. Piggy French was the dominant force, finishing first and third with Cooley Monsoon and Castletown Clover respectively after both horses jumped clear show jumping rounds.
Cooley Monsoon’s owner, comedienne Jennifer Saunders, was understandably over the moon with the result: “It’s just amazing – Piggy is an absolute genius,” she said at the prize giving. “Watching your horse at an event is exhausting though – I’ve barely been able to breath I’ve been so nervous!”
She was equally enthusiastic about Blair Castle: “It’s my first time here and it’s glorious, I think I might be slightly in love with this event. There’s so much to see and do – hopefully we’ll be back again next year as I’d love to bring the family.”
Piggy’s second ride, Susannah Paybody’s Castletown Clover was third, completing on his dressage score of 30.7.
Tom McEwen brought CHF Cooliser home on her dressage score to finish second on 28.7, rounding off a fantastic season for the eight-year-old mare who won her last three one-day competitions before coming to Blair:
“She’s done for the season now,” said Tom. “Blair was our goal and she’s done everything we’ve asked of her. She’ll have a good break now and then we’ll spend the winter working on flying changes so she can step up to 3* level next season.”
A fence down proved expensive for Matthew Heath and Lockroy and they dropped from fourth place after cross-country to eventual 14th. Emilie Chandler and Jemilla then took advantage and moved up from the fifth place they had held after the first two phases after show jumping clear.
Berkshire-based Kiwi James Avery and Lizzie Edwards’ Seaflower also retained the lead they established after dressage and won the CCI* on a combined score of 25.2.
“She tried her heart out all week so we couldn’t be happier,” said James. “She’s good fun to ride as she has a lot of attitude. My job is to contain that.”
Second went to Nicola Wilson with JL Dublin on 28.6: “I’m thrilled with him,” said Nicola. “He’s only seven and he has matured so much this year. We came here to get our qualification for the seven-year-old Championship at Le Lion so it’s just a case of fingers crossed that we get selected now.”
It was also a case of ‘mission accomplished’ for third-placed Paul Sims and another seven-year-old, G Star Van De Klinkenberg, who also secured their Le Lion qualification:
“I’m very chuffed,” said Paul. “He’s never been to an event with this much atmosphere before and he was terrified by all the umbrellas today. It’s nice to know that he can stay focussed and also that he can stay for nine minutes across country, which he did yesterday.”
Event Rider Masters CIC3*
Christopher Burton took not just the final leg of the 2018 Event Rider Masters series, but also the series itself. Second after dressage riding Graf Liberty, the pair dropped two places to fourth due to a lowered show jump pole – although given this is Graf Liberty’s weakest phase this was perhaps a good result.
The only pair to make the optimum time across country in dire weather conditions, they moved to the top of the table when Oliver Townend and Cillnabradden Evo picked up 2.8 time penalties, Shane Rose 9.6 and leaders going into the cross country, Emily King on Dargun, pulled up early on the course.
Chris admitted afterwards: “I was very nervous before I set out, worried that I would do something silly like jump the wrong fence. I’m stoked the horse ran so well and it’s great to have won not just the leg, but the series.”
Dressage leaders Oliver and Cillnabradden Evo had also lowered a show jump so needed to make the optimum to stay ahead of Burton. ‘Gary’ gave it his all, but the heavy going after several hours of relentless rain proved too much.
“I’m thrilled, both for the horse and for his owner, Sally-Anne Egginton,” said Oliver. “He’s a very special horse. He doesn’t really have the gallop for this sort of going but he dug deep, and after every fence took a deep breath and picked himself up again.”
Perhaps the most surprised rider on the podium was third placed Emily Philp whose ride Camembert added just 2.4 cross country time penalties to their first phase score. “I was daring myself not to take a pull [around the cross country course],” she said. “He gave me an amazing ride, this hasn’t sunk in yet.”
Earlier in the day Emily had climbed from 11th to sixth with their showjumping clear, Shane Rose moved up from seventh to second, and Emily King from third to first; just eight combinations kept all the coloured poles in their cups.
Cross country clears were the norm, but accompanied by significant numbers of time penalties. Just Kate Rocher-Smith and Matt Hecking were eliminated.
The final standings for the ERM series are:
1st Christopher Burton
2nd Laura Collett
3rd Tim Price