Drama Abounds as Oliver Townend Wins Back-to-Back Event Rider Masters Legs

Oliver Townend and ERM winner Cillnabradden Evo pictured at Blair Castle. Photo by Libby Law Photography. Oliver Townend and ERM winner Cillnabradden Evo pictured at Blair Castle. Photo by Libby Law Photography.

Amidst the creation of the new eventing series, Event Rider Masters, it seems we’ve also invented a new illustrious achievement to which a top rider can aspire: The ERM double double. By winning back to back legs of the series with no jumping penalties in show jumping or cross country, Oliver Townend is the first to claim this singular achievement, and we’ll hope not the last.

This victory has catapulted Oliver up the season standings, and with the season finale in two weeks at Blenheim, we’ll be looking to him, Paul Tapner, or Gemma Tattersall to clinch the overall championship.

Betina Hoy had a promising eight point lead going into the jumping phases, but the lead quickly evaporated this morning after dropping an early fence and the b element of the triple combination, and finally adding a single time fault to put her in second place by just fractions.

As Oliver and Cilnabradden Evo had done at Gatcombe, the two put in a clutch clear round in show jumping to give them the edge for the cross country phase.

Jonelle Price and Cloud Dancer, who had been in third after dressage, also struggled to pin down a solid show jumping test, adding two rails and three time faults to fall to 11th.

With rails dropping and the time hard to beat, double clears became a valuable commodity this morning, pushing the likes of Gemma Tattersall, Bill Levett, and Francesca Reid-Warrilow up the standings into podium contention.

Cross Country Highs and Lows

In the thrilling conclusion, the penultimate obstacle on course played a decisive role in the affair as eight of the 39 starters incurred jumping penalties at the angled brushes.  At the end of a long and undulating course, multiple horses seemed to lose momentum, misread the distance, or glance off the side of this difficult question.

Among them was the only rider in a position to threaten Oliver’s lead, Bettina Hoy. She tore around course and was making tremendous time until Seigneur Medicott glanced off the side of the b element of the brushes and ended Germany’s chances for their first ERM win.

Jock Paget (NZL) too struggled on course when his mount Angus Blue appeared to jump outside the flags on a brush arrowhead (14a) after a big drop. He was first eliminated, then reinstated for the awards ceremony, and finally after the event had ended and new footage became available for the ground jury to review, Jock and Angus Blue were eliminated for the issue.

While the rain trickled on and off throughout the rounds, it was an absolute downpour for Jonelle Price’s cross country round. But the seasoned veteran barely seemed to notice, and managed to jump around clear to ultimately finish in fifth place.

Series champion contender and crowd favorite Gemma Tatttersal experienced her twist on course before she even started, when her mount Santiago Bay refused to enter the start box. Gemma told the ERM commentators later that the horse was just overly jazzed to get going, and she believes she lost about 5-7 seconds in the affair. Fortunately, the two were able to make up time on course and finish with just four penalty points, enough to secure third place.

These bizarre events were no concern for Oliver Townend, however, who put in a foot-perfect round on Cilnabradden Evo, ultimately finishing with just 2.4 time faults and a final score of 45.2, the only rider to complete in the 40s today.  Under 25 up-and-comer Tom Mcewen of Great Britain and Diesel were able to play ball with the veterans today, and rode a clear show jumping round and quick and clean final phase right into second place.

The final leg of the ERM will be September 11-12 in conjunction with the Blenheim Palace International Horse Trials. It’s an all-star cast for the final showdown, so be sure to say locked on with Eventing Nation for complete coverage!

(Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story reported that Jock Paget took second place in the division. The ground jury has since reviewed the case further and determined he was in fact eliminated. The story has been updated to reflect this.) 

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