The final of the ERM Series has started at beautiful Blenheim Palace, although the weather is far from beautiful, with rain and challenging temperatures! Despite that, there were some good performances and there is little between the top competitors heading into the show jumping and cross-country phases.
Izzy Taylor and Be Touchable came in on great form, with back-to-back wins at Millstreet in Ireland and were widely picked by many to lead the event from go to whoa. They certainly delivered, with 35.8 in dressage, but Izzy has no room for error as Australia’s Shane Rose and his Olympic horse, CP Qualified, are just 0.1 of a mark behind her! Shane won Leg 6 of the ERM series at Blair Castle and will be out to win another and see if he can win some of the dosh on offer for the series placings.
“I am a competitive person,” says Shane. “We came here to do well and I am going to try to do just that. At the start of the season we were just getting ready, so had a slow start, but it’s now time to catch up. CP Qualified likes this type of ground and I think the cross-country course will suit him tomorrow. He feels fit and ready to run”.
Izzy is known as one of the fastest cross-country riders in the world, and will be also keen to hold her lead. Be Touchable is a horse to really look out for, and there is a lot of talk that the 11-year-old will be one of the best for the British team in the future. “He was fantastic, he is a very exciting horse who has always had the potential, and he delivered today,” Izzy says. “He is beautiful to look at, and he was really with me in the arena all the way through the test. I really enjoyed it and am looking forward to tomorrow!”
China’s Alex Hua-Tian and Don Geniro have also won a previous ERM leg. The popular pair are currently third with 36.4.
Another challenging for a place on the overall series podium is the 2016 ERM champion Oliver Townend, who sits in fourth place with Cooley Master Class on a score of 38.3.
New Zealand’s Tim Price and Ascona M are fifth, scoring 38.6. Tim and his supporters were disappointed with his score, as the test appeared error-free, but they still go into the jumping phases in a handy position. A good result can see Tim move up the series leaderboard for a share of the prize money on offer.
Sir Mark Todd, currently third in the series, and Kiltubrid Rhapsody, are 14th with 43.6 and obviously will be looking to hold on to their spot at least. Sarah Cohen and Treason, who can finish no worse than third in the overall series, are 15th on 43.8.
Andrew Nicholson has his talented Jet Set back in top FEI competition after more than a year’s break and is 16th position, on a score of 43.9.
Another welcome return is that of Jonelle Price, who is back competing on the international stage just four weeks and two days after the birth of baby boy, Otis. She is riding Classic Moet, who had a run at Gatcombe last weekend. Their score of 47.3 puts them in 23rd place, and the Prices are happy with the result.
Blyth Tait has his 13-year-old Irish-bred horse Dassett Courage (by Courage out of a Cruising mare) in the class and sits in 31st position on 50.3. The horse is having only his third start at three-star level, and the first this season. Blyth has been patiently building him up in two-star classes.
You can watch the replay of the dressage on this link – Izzy Taylor is on at about 2.45 and Otis Price makes an appearance at about 3.07!
Chipmunk FRH ridden by Julia Krajewski (Germany) leads the CCI3* class after dressage on a score of 33.4 from Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street on a score of 35.7. Kimberley Severson (USA) is third on 37.8 on Cooley Cross Border.
Andrew Nicholson has three horses in this class, all currently in the top 20. His best placing is seventh on Byrnesgrove First Diamond, with a score of 39.9 for a lovely test.
Swallow Springs is back in action too, coming into the competition with hot form of three wins and a second. His last win was in the Open Intermediate at Wellington in late August and he also won the Advanced 8/9 yo class at Aston-Le-Walls in July as well as being second in the CIC3* at Barbury. He and Andrew are in 11th equal in the Blenheim class on a score of 43.2.
Urma BK is Andrew’s other ride, and will be first to go in the cross-country tomorrow. The pair lie in 18th place on 46.6.
A score of 53.3 puts Dan Jocelyn and Blackthorne Cruise into 50th in the 85-strong field.
Tim Price is the only New Zealander in this class; he is lying 11th with Kincooley Cruising (45.9) and 18th (in a three-way tie) on Cooley Showtime (48.6) .
The class leader is Japan’s Kazuma Tomoto on Brookpart Vikenti, from Christopher Burton (Australia) on Cooley Lands and Francis Whittington on Nimrod II.