The Jardy International Eventing Show hosted the fourth leg of the Event Rider Masters and the race for the coveted Masters title is beginning to take shape.
After a heated battle in the dressage stage, the scores were at an all-time low – and with the top twenty competitors sitting within two rails of one another, there wasn't going to be any margin for error heading into the showjumping and cross-country phases.
Just eleven horse-and-rider combinations produced clear rounds inside the time over the poles, sending some well-placed combinations tumbling down the leaderboard and opening the door for others to begin their ascent.
Among those major movers was Germany's Felix Etzel, who toppled two rails with Bandit 436 and dropped from fourth place to twentieth.
New Zealand's Jonelle Price, hot in pursuit of valuable series points, delivered a clear round just outside the optimum time to move from fourteenth to ninth with Grovine de Reve.
But at the conclusion of the influential showjumping phase, the top of the leaderboard remained untouched: France's Lt. Col. Thibaut Vallette and his Olympic partner Qing du Briot ENE HN added just 1.6 time penalties to their dressage score of 23.2, keeping them less than one second ahead of second-placed Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V.
No certainty in eventing
But there's no such thing as a certainty in eventing, and even less so in the fast-paced, high-tension tracks of the Event Rider Masters.
France's Gireg le Coz, rode his Selle Français gelding Aisprit de la Loge in the horse's second attempt at this level. They were the only combination to finish on their dressage score, which allowed them to climb from 11th place after the first phase to take the win.
"I can't believe it," says Gireg, who debuted the horse at the CCI4*-S level at the Arville leg of the 2019 Event Rider Masters series last month, finishing sixth. "My horse was amazing, from the dressage through to the end of the cross-country. He's only a nine-year-old, but he's so honest."
Gireg takes home a cheque for €18,000 and collects valuable series points, too – he now sits fourth in the 2019 rankings on 51 points.
Just a tenth of a penalty precluded a win for 2017 ERM champion Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V, "She's put in a great performance this weekend,” said Gemma. “There was a lot of determination [on course], to be honest. She gave me a bit of a heart attack near the end of the course – I lost my steering for some reason, but we managed to stay inside the flags."
Event Rider Masters debutante Felix Vogg showed off his considerable experience, partnering his World Equestrian Games mount Colero to third place.
The shock withdrawal of series leader Chris Burton left the door wide open for a new face at the top spot, and consummate competitor Jonelle Price duly stepped up to the plate. She finished sixth with Grovine de Reve, adding 0.8 time penalties in the showjumping and a further 2 across the country, but putting her in the lead for the series title by seven points.
Chris Burton drops to third in the 2019 leaderboard, while fellow Aussie Bill Levett slips into second place after a ninth-place finish today with his ERM specialist Shannondale Titan.
Leg 5 of the 2019 Event Rider Masters series heads to Ireland for the first time where the Duggan Family and their team in Millstreet, Co. Cork will welcome riders and their supporters from around the world on 23 and 24 August.
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