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.