With temperatures soaring well into the 30s over the weekend, Leg 4 of the Event Rider Masters has definitely been the hottest yet in every sense of the word. All three phases produced their share of leader board shuffling drama with America’s Liz Halliday-Sharp and France’s Tom Carlile sharing the top spot going into the show jumping.
Proving just as challenging as we thought it might, the first into the show jumping arena, Matt Heath and One of a Kind, gave us our first clear round, but they were not forthcoming after that. With just seven riders leaving the colored poles in the cups the top 10 looked very different after the second phase.
Oliver Townend and Cillnabradden Evo broke their run of clears in the show jumping when they had four poles down dropping them right out of contention. Gemma Tattersall and Pamero 4 put in a foot perfect clear round to climb into third position going into the cross-country.
Joint leaders Liz Halliday-Sharp and Fernhill By Night dropped into second place after the show jumping opening the door for favorites Tom Carlile and Upsilon to hold their lead heading out onto the cross-country this afternoon, which they did in style.
“I was good in there huh?” he said. “I rode it just now like I’m meant to ride, and it was good to put the ball back onto the pitch. He’s such a wonderful animal that the biggest danger is just us losing our concentration. After all we aren’t robots and blips happen. Whether the course is tough or easy isn’t an issue with a horse like Upsilon, it’s just about switching our brains on.”
In an afternoon that saw “Mr Stickability,” Andrew Nicholson, part ways with Swallow Springs and only 16 riders jumping clear around the Capt. Mark Phillips’ designed cross-country course, the jumping proved just as significant as the time.
Riding a mature confident round, the Frenchman and Upsilon proved their class once again and re-affirmed their place as the new Kings of Barbury. Adding just 0.4 time penalties to their leading dressage to finish on top of the ERM podium.
“Upsilon loves Barbury and I do too,” he said. “Only three wins left, and we can equal the legend, Andrew Nicholson. He did lose a bit of confidence at the Euros, and he showed it again in Arville [Belgium.] I think he just needs a couple more nice runs like today before we think about anything else too big.”
Playing an important part in Brit Tattersall’s 2017 Series Win, Pamero 4 put in a classy performance in all three phases at Barbury to give Tattersall her first podium finish this year. With a speedy clear just 4 seconds over the time, Tattersall and Pamero 4 finished on a score of 28.8 and left no room for leaders Tom Carlile and Upsilon to make any mistakes.
“I just want to say thank you to Pamero 4 and owner Clive Smith,” she said. “I’m so proud of the horse. The beginning of the season wasn’t easy as we have had a few injuries but as you say, that is horses. We are chuffed to be back at beautiful Barbury and back on the podium.”
The fastest male event rider in the world, Chris Burton didn’t disappoint out on course. Delivering a master class in cross-country riding with an incredible clear inside the time the Australian and Trisha Rickard’s Polystar I finished on 34.8 and in third place and with it taking the series lead from Laura Collett.
However, Collett still collected some valuable series points by finishing in ninth after a wonderful performance on another inexperienced young three-star horse by guiding 9-year-old Dacapo home clear with just 10.6 time penalties.
“To come here as part of this field and produce what he has produced is incredible. He is a very exciting horse for the future” said Laura.
Giving the GBR World Equestrian Games selectors even more of a headache, European team gold medalists, Tina Cook and Billy The Red and Nicola Wilson and One Two Many cemented their selection bids with wonderful clears around the tough three-star track finishing in sixth and seventh place respectively.
“I’m really pleased with this weekend,” said Cook. “I missed the first half of the season when I dislocated and broke my shoulder, and it was really frustrating to miss Badminton but it’s been fab to be back here. I’m really pleased with Billy The Red. He’s only 11 and still very young. He’s going to Aachen in a couple of weeks’ time so it’s onwards and upwards.”
With Burton sitting pretty at the top of the series leader board after a foot-perfect performance at Barbury and all of the series top six heading to Leg 5 at Haras de Jardy (France) the race to take a place on the 2018 series podium is seriously hotting up.