Sarah Carless

British rider Alexander Bragg tasted his first victory in the Event Rider Masters series at the Jardy International Eventing Show with his long-time partner Zagreb.

The pair’s previous best result in the series was third place at the Festival of British Eventing in 2017. But smashing their personal best of 27.6 set at Barbury 2017, Bragg and Zargreb scored 23.6 for a narrow lead of 0.3 penalties ahead of Karim Laghouag and Entebbe de Hus. And it was a lead they never let go of.

Speaking after his dressage said, “Zagreb is feeling great after his summer break, things didn’t quite go to plan in the Spring but the surface here gave him a great chance to express himself. He’s a really genuine jumper and he’s feeling amazing so I’ll keep pressing the buttons and we’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”

Frenchman Laghouag commented after is test: “I am very, very happy, thank you very much for the competition Event Rider Masters. Last year it was Michael (Jung), this year it is me! Entebbe de Hus is my friend and I am very happy.”

Riding Be Touchable, Izzy Taylor produced a super test for a score of 25.1 and third place overnight. She said: “I’d have liked to have been a bit closer to the top or better still in the lead today. Barbury wasn’t ideal but it is part of our job to stay calm and focussed. We have to learn and move on. We couldn’t do it without our owners and sponsors and it is wonderful when they can be here to see when we do well.”

Making a return to top level competition after a two-year break was Tim Price’s four star winner Wesko. In the UK, the pair have had a couple of quiet runs at Open Novice and CIC** but this was their first real test, and they found themselves in fourth after the first phase.

The New Zealander commented: “It just shows the showman that he is. You wouldn’t normally expect a horse to focus like that on their first time out. It’s like I think it and he does it. He’s a jumping machine and does this bit just to get through to the fun bits. We’re really looking forward to tomorrow.”

The show jumping saw 11 clear rounds, with the first of these coming from France’s Jean Lou Bigot. But with poles falling all around the course, Izzy Taylor took advantage of Karim Florent Laghaoug’s two fences down to climb into second place with a solid clear inside the time on the exuberant Be Touchable.

Holding fast at the top going into the Cross Country after clear round, Bragg and Zagreb laid down a formidable challenge for the chasing field. But having lead from the off, nobody could catch the Brit with the pair adding nothing to their score to take victory.

Afterwards he said: “I am over the moon. I was riding a bit like a demon out there, I really, really wanted it. I can’t believe I was faster than Izzy and Gemma, they are absolute speed queens. Tim is a bit more laid back so I expected to be speedier than him.”

Looking like they’d never been away, the fairy tale continued for Tim Price and his returning “best friend” Wesko, who delivered a cross country masterclass. Speaking about his second place finish Tim commented, “I’ll take that. I was saying to Billy (Levett) I don’t think I’ve had another one like him, it’s so much fun having him back. You don’t know until you know when you bring a horse like him back out at the top levels, but I guess now I know. It all came flooding back out there – he is just so much fun.”

Finishing just two seconds over the time after a slight navigation error out on course, Izzy Taylor and Be Touchable lived up to their reputation with a classy, fast clear to claim third. Last year’s series winner Gemma Tattersall and Chico Bella P couldn’t quite break their run of fourth place finishes when they ended their clear cross-country round three seconds inside the time.

Chris Burton held on to his series lead heading into the final leg of the series with a sixth-place finish with Cooley Lands. The pair were in 21stafter the dressage but pulled up 15 places with clean sheets on the cross country, coming home nine seconds inside the optimum time on the cross country. He now has 96 points, ten points ahead of Laura Collett, with Tim Price in third on 81 points. With 30 points awarded to the winner, the hunt for the 2018 series title will go down to the wire.

The Event Rider Masters now heads to the final leg of the 2018 Series at Blair Castle (25 & 26 August 2018).

Images courtesy of ERM

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