Australia’s Paul Tapner secured his first win in the International Arena at Hickstead today when claiming the honours in the MS Amlin Eventers’ Challenge.
The popular Wiltshire-based event rider produced a perfectly timed round to win on board Bonza King of Rouges. His time of 127.75sec was enough to take the title ahead of Britain’s Abi Walters and Perfick Miss Amber (128.37sec). In third was Irish Olympic rider Joseph Murphy and his London 2012 horse Electric Cruise, finishing just behind Walters with a time of 128.64sec.
Speaking at the press conference afterwards, Paul said that the MS Amlin Eventers’ Challenge is always a class he enjoys doing. “When you’re sat on a horse like that who is very careful, brave and fast, you’d expect him to excel in a class like this,” he said.
Tapner, the winner of Badminton in 2010, announced a change in career direction last year, much to the surprise of the eventing community. “Everybody is confused that I’m not a professional event rider any more – I’m now an amateur elite event rider,” he explained. “My full-time job is being the digital and technology manager for the Event Rider Masters series. That’s my day job now and I do my riding around that.”
Paul didn’t have the best of preparations for this class. He was on track to win an Advanced class at Aston-Le-Walls horse trials last week when he had a tack malfunction. “Bonza looked like he was going to win until his bit broke in two and I was careering flat out to a fence. Thankfully he pulled up to a halt without any further incident.”
Aside from the top three, only two other riders from the field of 21 managed to produce clear rounds – Britain’s Georgie Strang (Cooley Earl) in fifth and Jeanette Brakewell (Forever Red) in sixth. Last to go was Britain’s Alexander Bragg, who had an unlucky 8sec to add to his time after knocking two fences down, which cost him the win but was good enough to put him in fourth place.
Ireland’s Austin O’Connor was eliminated after taking a tumble at the Irish Bank, while Britain’s Pippa Funnell was desperately unlucky to fall at the final fence just yards from the finish line, having posted one of the fastest rounds of the day. Fortunately, both Pippa and her Rio 2016 ride Billy The Biz were back on their feet following the fall.
“It was a thrilling competition to watch and we were delighted to see a number of our clients’ horses go so well," said David Ashby, Managing Director of MS Amlin. "Congratulations to the winning combination. Paul rode a superb round, and we hope to see him competing here again next year.”
Earlier this afternoon, the USA’s Lauren Hough took the honours in the Bunn Leisure Trophy, riding the 12-year-old mare Adare.
Lauren is based in the UK for eight months of the year at her partner Captain Mark Phillips’ yard in Gatcombe. “I kept up a comfortable pace without going too hard to keep the horse fresh for [the Longines King George V Gold Cup on] Sunday; I didn’t take every risk,” said Lauren, who was pleased to get a win under her belt on the first day of international competition. “It’s good preparation for Sunday and I’m feeling fairly confident – you obviously need a bit of luck, too,” she said.
The first international class of the week was this morning’s Bunn Leisure Vase, which was won by Brazilian rider Yuri Mansur, who is based in the Netherlands. Riding the 10-year-old Inferno, Yuri saw off opposition from France’s Benoit Cernin in second.
“He’s amazing – he’s only been in my stable since last week, I’ve only had him for 10 days. This is actually our first class together!" said Yuri.
In the showing classes, the reigning British Horse Society Supreme Champion Jayne Ross secured her third consecutive Les and Nadia Edgar Supreme Hunter Championship with the mare Time 2 Reflect.
Tomorrow’s feature class is the FEI Nations Cup, a two-round team competition. Ireland have been drawn first to go, followed by Switzerland, Spain, Germany, France, Great Britain, Brazil and the Netherlands.
Tickets are available online or on the gate, while viewers can also watch the action live on Sky Sports or FEI TV.
This weekend, Leg 4 of the 2017 Event Rider Masters (ERM) lands in mainland Europe at the magnificent and historic grounds of Haras De Jardy in France. It features an impressive international field of 40 horses and riders, representing 14 nations. The field includes a formidable line-up of former and current Olympians, World and European medallists, all of whom are poised to stake their claim on the coveted ERM podium and the 60,000 euro prize pot.
World number 1 Michael Jung makes ERM debut
The current world number 1, and European, World and Olympic champion Michael Jung makes his ERM debut riding Fischerrocana FST for Germany. Jung’s CV boasts the highest of sporting and equestrian achievements including multiple wins at CIC**** level including; Badminton, Burghley, Lexington, and Luhmuhlen titles. This weekend Jung appears in the prestigious ERM for the first time, and is a favourite to add another high-profile win to his glittering CV.
Likely shake up of ERM leader board
Thomas Carlile (FRA) currently tops the ERM rankings with 56 points, following his Leg 3 record breaking win last weekend with Upsilon at Barbury. However, there are several competitors that will be hot on the heels of the Frenchman this weekend, and could shake up the leaderboard come Sunday evening.
France, who have featured prominently on the podium across the 2016 and 2017 series, field 13 riders. These include: one of their most successful riders of all time, Jean Teulere on board Matelot Du Grand Val; Sidney Dufresne riding Swing De Perdriat, who finished fourth at Leg 3 last weekend; current world number five, Maxime Livio on board Pica D’Or and Cedric Lyard, with his 2017 Badminton horse Cadeau Du Roi.
The French demonstrated their dominance in Eventing at the 2016 Olympics by winning team Gold, and are a nation who could feature prominently on the ERM podium at Jardy this weekend, particularly with the home crowd advantage.
All the action from Leg 4 at Haras De Jardy can be viewed live at eventridermasters.tv. A highlights programme will be aired across global TV channels from Thursday 20th July, including Sky Sports in the UK at 7pm.
For Leg 4 competitors, start times, information, and live stream http://eventridermasters.tv/events/2017/haras-de-jardy