As temperatures soared into the 30s the Event Rider Masters competition reached boiling point with a leaderboard shake up. As St. James's Place Barbury International Horse Trials sizzled in the Summer sun the competition was hotting up as much as the riders.
America’s Liz Halliday-Sharp and France’s Tom Carlile shared the top spot going into the Sunday's show jumping, but it was not a show jumping track for the faint hearted.
Matt Heath and One of a Kind made a clear round look easy, but looks were deceiving as just 7 riders left all of the coloured poles standing. You'd have bet good money on Andrew Nicholson, Imogen Murray and Oliver Townend producing a clear, but down they came. The former two just rattling the last to spoil the party but Cillnabradden Evo lowered four to break their run of show jumping clears. Tina Cook, Alexander Whewall and Gemma Tattersall all made commanding moves up the leaderboard with a clear round, but further shake ups were still to come.
“I was good in there huh? 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.” Commented Tom Carlile after the Show Jumping.
With the show jumping causing so many 'cricket scores' just twenty-two came forward to cross-country, with many riders opting not to take on the infamous Barbury course in sweltering conditions.
“Mr Stickability”, Andrew Nicholson (NZL) was one of the early casualties as he parted company with Swallow Springs. Marcio Appel (BRA) failed to complete, whilst compatriot Marcio Jorge picked up a 50 for being deemed not to have gone through the flags.
It was the Frenchman and Upsilon once again who proved their class and re-affirmed their place in the ERM history books to win a third title. Adding just 1.2 time penalties to their leading dressage to take the win.
“Upslion loves Barbury and I do too. 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 – I think he just needs a couple more nice runs like today before we think about anything else too big.”
Britain's Gemma Tattersall, and 2017 Series Winner, jumped up to 2nd with Clive Smith's Pamero 4 following a speedy clear just 4 seconds over the time.
“I just want to say thank you to Pamero 4 and owner Clive Smith – 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.”
Chris Burton (AUS) has often been dubbed the fastest event rider in the world, and here he lived up to that expectation. Delivering a masterclass in cross-country riding he pushed Polystar I around the Wiltshire hills to complete inside the time. The only CIC3* competitor to do so. Finishing on their two phase score of 34.8 the Australian rose from 11th to 3rd and also takes the series lead.
Giving the GBR World Equestrian Games selectors even more of a headache, European Team Gold Medallists, Tina Cook and Billy the Red and Nicola Wilson and One Two Many cemented their selection bids with wonderful clears around the tough 3* track finishing in 6th & 7th place respectively.
“I’m really pleased with this weekend. 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” commented Tina Cook.
With Chris Burton sitting pretty at the top of the series leaderboard and the other top 5 series contenders all heading to Leg 5 at Haras de Jardy the race to take a place on the 2018 Series Podium is seriously hotting up.
The Event Rider Masters now heads to Leg 5 at Haras de Jardy, France. (14 & 15 July 2018).
WATCH all of the LEG 4 action AGAIN on www.eventridermasters.tv