Chatsworth ERM Dressage: All About That (Mr) Bass

Laura Collett and Mr Bass deliver their best performance yet, to the rather apt “All About That Bass.” We approve. Photo by Ben Clark/Event Rider Masters.

We might not have had the pleasure of seeing him at Badminton, from which he was withdrawn due to a lack of prep runs, but Mr Bass, piloted by Laura Collett, wasted no time in putting himself firmly back in the spotlight in the first international after the fact. First in the ring after the lunch break, the pair posted a 25.3 – their best-ever score as a combination – and staked a claim on the lead that proved unshiftable.

“He’s a lovely character – we have a real relationship, and he knows how to wind me up, but when he performs like that it’s worth it,” she said of the 10-year-old Carrico gelding, owned by the How and Scott families with Laura.

“He was really with me, and trying really hard, so I’m glad the judges rewarded that – but he’s still not done, and there’s much more to come, which is very exciting.”

Laura Collett and Mr Bass show what they’re made of in the ERM. Photo by Tilly Berendt.

The decision to withdraw from Badminton may have been hard for Laura at the time, but on reflection, she says that it was absolutely the right decision for ‘Chuck’, who will head to Luhmühlen in June for his first four-star instead.

“When I saw so many horses coming home from the cross-country tired, I knew I’d done the right thing,” she says.

This is Mr Bass’ first trip to Chatsworth, and so he’s untested over the tricky speed test of the cross country course. But this is a horse who makes a habit of finishing on his dressage score: in 11 out of his 21 internationals, he’s done exactly that, and in the 10 in which he hasn’t, three of those have been because he’s been withdrawn before the cross-country and three have been by the slimmest smattering of seconds.

The dressage multiplier is gone, Chatsworth historically precludes fast cross-country rounds, and we’re looking at one of the strongest ERM fields we’ve ever seen going into the jumping phases tomorrow. What does that mean?

It means you won’t want to take your eyes off of this combination for a moment, lest they run away with the entire competition.

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Second place going into the jumping phases was scooped by former Chatsworth winners Pippa Funnell and Sandman 7. They won the CIC3* in 2015, despite adding a reasonably significant 18 time penalties across the country – and their score there of 25.6 was bettered by their 25.4 today.

Pippa Funnell and Sandman 7 slip into second place. Photo by Libby Law Photography/Chatsworth Horse Trials.

“It’s always one of my favourite venues, Chatsworth – I hate to say it, but I came here competing 32 years ago,” laughs Pippa. “It’s where I qualified for my first Badminton, so it’s special. He feels well, and I feel well – the last couple of times I’ve been here, I’ve been recovering from setbacks – and although the spring has been hampered by cancellations, he’s had a couple of jolly runs.”

The Cadre Noir’s Thibault Vallette and Qing du Briot ENE HN lead the French offensive at Chatsworth. Photo by Anna Franklin/Event Rider Masters.

The final rider in the ring was projected to post a massive score, and though he didn’t take the lead as expected, he did manage third. Thibault Vallette and Qing du Briot ENE HN are part of a serious French offensive at Chatsworth this weekend, which sees the tricolore make up 20% of the field. They posted a 26.6 – somewhat below their usual form at the level – to the dulcet tones of Muse, who were a popular musical choice for French riders today. Thibault and Qing du Briot’s cross country record over the past year has been somewhat patchy – they picked up 20s in two of their three international runs, but managed a fast clear at the European Championships for 10th – so we would be amiss to discount them completely at this early stage.

Thibault was joined in the top ten by two of his fellow countrymen, both riding horses with whom they made headlines in the latter half of the 2017 season. Reigning 7-year-old World Champion Alertamalib’or was ridden by Astier Nicolas in the horse’s first three-star test, posting a 28.5 for ninth place overnight. Gwendolen Fer and Romantic Love, who finished their season by winning the CCI4* at Pau, slotted into tenth place today on 28.7.

“I hope I don’t go for a swim tomorrow – I went for one last week!” laughed Piggy French after her smart test with Quarrycrest Echo. They sit in fourth place overnight on a score of 27.3.

Piggy’s Badminton attempt might have ended early with that fateful swim, but she has high hopes for ‘Red’ this weekend.

“I was very pleased with him, actually. He’s come on a lot in this phase and is getting really consistent,” she says. The pair’s early season efforts were largely uninterrupted by difficult weather conditions this spring: “so he’s running really well, and he’s ready for this,” she says.

Fresh off her Badminton win, New Zealand’s Jonelle Price brings forward Faerie Dianimo for the ERM. Some off-script flamboyance precluded an early attempt at the leaderboard. Photo by Ben Clark/Event Rider Masters.

Just half a penalty point separates fifth and eighth place. These places are held overnight by Italy’s Vittoria Panizzon and Chequers Play the Game (5th, 27.7), Francis Whittington and Hasty Imp (6th and early leaders, 27.9), Ros Canter and Zenshera (7th, 28.1), and Australia’s Sammi Birch and Hunter Valley II (8th, 28.2). Having seen the effect of dressage without the multiplier at Kentucky and Badminton, it’ll be interesting to see it in action in a fast-paced, tightly bunched CIC3* – particularly one in which the top of the leaderboard boasts such experienced horse and rider combinations.

Tomorrow sees the showjumping commence at 1.00pm BST/8.00am EST, followed by the cross country at 3.30pm BST/10.30am EST. Follow along with the #ERMeventing hashtag on Twitter, and don’t forget that you can livestream the whole competition for free, regardless of your location, at eventridermasters.tv.

Fancy a preview of tomorrow’s cross-country course? Check it out in full by clicking here.

Go eventing!

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