The Event Rider Masters (ERM) came to it’s conclusion yesterday after the show jumping and cross-country. The latter, a source of numerous developments, finally saw victory falling into the hands of Michael Jung and his young ride, Star Connection.
The show jumping opened Sunday’s festivities in the big Olympic arena from 10:00 a.m. onwards. A course that presented no major jumping difficulties, it was finally the time allowed that caught out most competitors. Set at 68 seconds, it wasn’t until the 17th to go, Maxime Livio (FRA)/Pica d’Or, that a rider got within the time, but, unfortunately, it was with the price of leaving three poles on the ground. The tension rose significantly when it was the turn of the last ten to take the start. After Donatien Schauly (FRA) on Pivoine des Touches, British representative, Oliver Townend, winner of the 2016 ERM circuit, left his signature on the second of the three clear rounds, allowing him to climb five places on the scoreboard.
The formidable Michael Jung (GER), fifth after the dressage, also added no penalties to his dressage score, with a round that amazed all the spectators. “He’s a super-horse, he makes my work easy,” said Jung. “Star Connection is fast and intelligent, but we are going to have to continue our performance in the cross country if we want to keep the lead!”
The leading trio was completed by Thibaut Vallette/Qing du Briot*ENE-HN (FRA), gaining a place after the dressage, and Gemma Tattersall (GBR)/Chico Bella P.
A brand new format, unique to the ERM, saw pairs starting at 1:30 p.m. onward in reverse order of merit on the cross country course, to play out the final act in the much awaited 3*CIC. Drawn by the Olympic course designer Pierre Michelet, 27 obstacles, required 35 jumping efforts. A relatively flowing course for the best event riders in the World, which even so, caused difficulties as only 13 of the 40 starters came in within the time allowed
“It wasn’t any easier than usual. There were very good riders and very good horses and a lot at stake. We had some spectacular developments towards the end, because with victory becoming within reach, some riders made errors due to the pressure. It’s really spectacular because they restart in reverse order,” explained Pierre Michelet.
It was certainly necessary to hold up under pressure and to give it all in order to have a hope of climbing onto the podium – a challenge Karim Florent Laghouag (FRA) and Olivier Townend (GBR) brilliantly rose to and met. With their respective rides Entebbe de Hus and Cooley Master Class, they proved once again their talent and ascended to the second (38,90 points) and third (39,10 points) places. Lieutenant-colonel Thibault Vallette suffered a refusal on the second element at the water, relegating him to 26th. Gemma Tattersall (GB), third provisionally, didn’t manage to get in within the time, finally finishing fourth.
Last to go, the provisional leader after the first two tests, the legendary German, Michael Jung claimed in his first ever participation in a stage of the ERM, a superb victory with Star Connection. Despite a time fault on the cross-country, he dominated the class finishing on 38,5 points. He stated, “For his third ever 3 star, my horse went very well. I included the Jardy stage in my programme for the season, but I’m also going to compete in small classes not far from home with my young horses. The ERM is a super circuit for the discipline. These competitions allow us to benefit from excellent prize money which helps finance our sport. It’s great to have such competitions, with good going, courses that aren’t dangerous to the horses, where we can go fast without risk of injury.”
So, brilliant sport at this first ERM stage to be held at the Haras de Jardy which was brought to a close by words of the circuit director, Christopher Stone : “At each leg of the series, we see things that we don’t expect. Today at Jardy the standard of show-jumping was very high, we’ve never seen this at other stages. It caused a number of developments including a change of leader before the cross country. Karim Laghouag for example, dropped to second place because of a fault in the show-jumping and not because of one on the cross country. It’s impressive to see the extent to which each test is important, and it’s that which has given Haras de Jardy such a brilliant edition of the Event Rider Masters.”