If you were watching the livestream of the Event Rider Masters at Bramham today, you were a witness to one of the biggest wins in Chinese eventing history as China’s Alexa Hua Tian claimed an impressive victory in the second leg of the series. Alex and Don Gemiro took the victory on their dressage score of 40.1 and had one of the faster cross country rounds of the day.
“I’m thrilled. Absolutely thrilled,” Alex said. “We were dead last at Chatsworth, so to be sitting here is a little bit overwhelming.”
Alex admits he had significant homework to do with Don Gemiro in the past three weeks to tidy up their show jumping issues and make the time cross country — all this while also flying back and forth to China to fulfill his national duties as one of China’s Olympic athletes.
“He’s a tremendously talented horse, and he’s the most difficult horse I’ve ever had to jump at this level, not because he isn’t talented but because of his range,” Alex said. “But he really went out and showed that range in cross country today, and I’m just thrilled.”
American Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen went into the second day of competition as the leader with a dressage score of 36.1, but pulled a rail going into the triple combination, which vexed numerous riders all morning. The four faults dropped them to second going into cross country.
Clark and Loughan Glen were determined not to let another one slip by them and put in the fastest cross country round of the day with more than ten seconds to spare at the finish flags. Clark and Glen made another strong argument today for inclusion on the U.S. Olympic team with their eighth consecutive cross country free of jumping penalties, and doing it while vying against the best in the world.
“He was great. He clocked around fast — maybe a little too fast! I was trying to go as fast as I possibly could while still being safe. He was really fast in the beginning, and I was struggling with him running past a few distances at the galloping fences. Then he settled in and cruised home. He finished great and his already back home and happy in his box.”
While second at Bramham’s Event Rider Masters leg is an exciting achievement, Clark is clear that it’s all demonstrative of the bigger plan he and Glen have been working on to prepare for a team slot in Rio.
“My fitness schedule for the year has always been backed up from the Olympics. Everything has been planned around that being his CCI this year, which is why he’s been going a bit faster each time out. I pushed him faster at Chatsworth than I did at Belton, and here he went a little bit faster. He’s right on track for a peak performance at the Olympics,” Clark said.
“I think I did enough to prove that Glen is right on track this year. He’s continued to improve with each and very performance along the way in preparation for the Olympics. He’s proven to be consistent on cross country; two years ago that was a question, but it’s not anymore. There is still room for improvement in the dressage. He had one down today in show jumping, which was my fault and uncharacteristic for him. But it’s all looking like he could have a fantastic performance at the Oympics.”
New Zealand rider Jonelle Price with Faerie Dianimo had foot-perfect performances in show jumping and cross country, soaring them up from eighth to grab the last spot on the podium. Fellow southern hemisphere transplant Bill Levett of Australia had been in second after dressage but he too succumbed to the first fence in the triple. A calm and easy double clear in cross country allowed him to hold onto fourth place.
Rosalind Canter and Allstar B were the highest-placed pair from the UK with a quality performance at Bramham this afternoon; the two were just inside the top ten after dressage and managed to ride double clear rounds in the jumping phases to a fifth place finish.
It was a decisive day on cross country for the CCI3* Senior Division, with the leaderboard seeing many significant shakeups. With a flurry of refusals, runouts, and time penalties, America’s own Katherine Coleman was able to take spectacular advantage of the opportunity and move from 42nd to 14th after a flawless round on Longwood. No easy feat on a day where only ten in the division managed to produce clear rounds inside the time.
“The going was perfect today and we were quite early on in the day so we had good ground, and I just got him into a rhythm and stayed just ahead of our minute markers all the way around. He is such a clever little pony and really quick across the ground, and I’m lucky I can just let him bowl on in between fences because he is so quick to come back to me and get his feet underneath him,” Katherine told EN.
“I’m very pleased with him, he is a little super star, and I’m just keeping my fingers crossed we can keep all the poles up tomorrow.”
Jenny Caras is still going strong in her impressive overseas debut after cross country with Fernhill Fortitude. The two were clear of jumping faults and added only 7.6 time penalties to their dressage score to land them in eighth place going into the final phase tomorrow.
“He was really good,” Jenny told EN. “He was fighting for it the whole way around! I could have gone a bit faster but the last half of the course had a lot of hills, and I wanted to make sure there was still gas in the tank at the end. He looks great right now and we are looking forward to tomorrow.”
Tom McEwen (GBR) and Toledo de Kerser are currently leading the division, but do not have a rail in hand. Only three rails separate first from eighth, so there’s still plenty that could happen in the final phase.
The CCI3* U25 and Senior Divisions will conclude Sunday, and we’ll bring you a full report once we have results. Go Eventing!
Jenni Autry contributed to this report.