And then there were nineteen. You’d have been forgiven, after watching pathfinder Izzy Taylor‘s laughably easy clear aboard PSH Gazelle, for thinking that Ian Stark had, perhaps, made his Tattersalls CCI4*-L track a bit too doable. But as the afternoon’s action unfurled, and our field of competitors shrunk from 28 to 19, it became clearly evident that only the boldest and bravest would end the day at the upper echelons of the leaderboard.
He might be a first-timer at the level, and he may have flown all the way from the States to begin this next, crucial stage of his education, but Will Coleman‘s Off The Record looked a consummate professional around the tough track, jumping clear to finish bang on the optimum time of 10:18. For the ten-year-old gelding, who was sourced just down the road at Richard Sheane’s Wicklow-based Cooley Farm, the trip to Tatts has been something of a homecoming – and it certainly shows. When overnight leaders Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street picked up twenty penalties at the drop element of the four-part mound combination, they moved into an easy lead.
“He was great; I thought he did it really easily, and I was really happy with that,” says Will of the young talent, with whom he won the Jersey Fresh CCI4*-S last month. “The course suited my plan, and I wasn’t really surprised by anything out there – he gave me a great round. I was up ten, fifteen seconds most of the way around; I thought, at that point, that I was still tied with Pippa [Funnell and Billy Beware, withdrawn before cross-country], so I thought there wasn’t any point in finishing ten seconds under. So I slowed up towards the finish, but I nearly overdid it. [My wife] Katie was really worried that I’d maybe slowed up too much, but thankfully we finished dead on it! He’s a real bulldog; he loved every minute of it.”
Top position at Tattersalls is a familiar position for Will, who came achingly close to a win in last year’s CCI4*-L aboard OBOS O’Reilly. Just a single pole on the last day precluded the victory, and instead, they had to settle for fifth – but for all his relative inexperience, Off the Record is an impressive showjumper, with plenty of clear rounds across his international record.
Problems scattered across Ian Stark’s track, on which the coffin at 13ABC proved enormously influential, set in motion a seismic shift across the rest of the leaderboard, with some vastly experienced combinations pulling up and other competitors making fortuitous climbs. British rider Michael Owen stepped from eighth into second place overnight aboard Jims Pal. Though the thirteen-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding has been contesting this level since 2017, he’s yet to break into the top ten on a final leaderboard – and Michael will need to work hard tomorrow to stop the gelding from sending a handful of rails flying.
Izzy Taylor was first out of the box with PSH Gazelle, and she also recorded the fastest round of the day, finishing seven seconds inside the optimum time. This is a debut CCI4*-L for the eleven-year-old, who was produced to three-star by Michael Jackson (no, not that one). The mare’s efforts allowed her to climb from eleventh to third overnight, putting Izzy – who won this class last year with Call Me Maggie May – within touching distance of a repeat victory.
New Zealand’s Dan Jocelyn and Blackthorn Cruise evidently felt quite comfortable in fourth place, and there they stayed – they added 3.6 time penalties after an easy spin around the course. The ten-year-old gelding stepped up to this level last season, jumping clear around Bramham’s CCI4*-S course, but picking up 20 penalties in his first CCI4*-L at Boekelo. He’s not been a particularly quick horse thus far in his career, and so his round today shows promise for a bright future.
British up-and-comer Millie Dumas was the only British Eventing competitor to record fifty consecutive cross-country clears in 2018, and the quiet achiever demonstrated why again today, piloted Fabian around the track with a nurturing determination. Though they added 2.4 time penalties, the nine-year-old gelding was able to move up four places to sit fifth overnight, putting the pair 1.9 points ahead of the best-placed Irish combination, Esib Power and Samuel Thomas II. Their double clear catapulted them from 21st place after dressage to overnight sixth – an exciting stepping stone in the new partnership between Esib, who splits her time between top-level eventing and top-level showjumping, and Samuel, who was produced to five-star by Oliver Townend.
Tina Cook and Killadeas relinquished their hold on fifth place, moving down to seventh with 6.4 time penalties. But Tina, who has been carefully producing the talented, under-the-radar gelding, was thrilled with her horse’s performance, effusively praising him at the finish.
Overnight leaders Pippa Funnell and MGH Grafton Street were the most high-profile combination to come to grief on course: they added twenty jumping penalties and 16.4 time to slip down to fifteenth place. Two riders were eliminated; Melissa Townshend fell from Chapeau at the first element of the coffin, while Lauren Blades and Jemilla were eliminated for missing fence eight. A further seven riders opted to retire on course, including Laura Collett, who ran into trouble at both the coffin and the Horse Sport Ireland water with Dacapo. Kazuma Tomoto, too, put his hand up after Bernadette Utopia took offence to the coffin, while Ludwig Svennerstal called it a day when Salunette opted out of jumping the big log drop into the HSI water.
Tomorrow, our nineteen remaining competitors head into the showjumping finale, which kicks off at 3.30 p.m. BST/10.30 a.m. EST.
Tim Price Holds CCI4*-S Lead
The CCI4*-S field – whittled down to sixteen starters after the withdrawal of Tina Cook and Calvino II – faced a tough showjumping challenge in the Colm Quinn main arena today, but yesterday’s leaders proved unassailable, despite adding 1.2 time faults.
“She’s not the most orthodox horse – she throws her heart over the fence first, which is great if you can channel it, but it means you can’t nip around like some of the other horses can,” says Tim Price of the opinionated Ascona M, with whom he heads into tomorrow’s cross-country on a two-phase score of 27.10. This puts him 2.7 penalties – or six seconds – ahead of second-placed Kazuma Tomoto and Vinci de la Vigne JRA, who delivered the round of the day to finish as one of just five combinations inside the time.
Only five riders stayed on their dressage scores today, while just seven left all the poles in the cups. Alex Bragg produced two of those five completely fault-free rounds, which was enough to allow Zagreb to hold onto third place and the former Jonelle Price ride Hester to climb from thirteenth to eighth.
The best-placed Irish rider, Sam Watson, very nearly managed the feat too, delivering clear rounds with both Imperial Sky and Tullabeg Flamenco, but adding just 1.2 time penalties aboard the latter. They sit in fifth and seventh overnight, respectively, just below fourth-placed Millie Dumas and KEC Deakon, and creating some sort of Irish sandwich (potato bread, anyone?) with Mary King, who holds onto sixth place aboard her homebred King Robert.
Tomorrow sees the CCI4*-S competition head into its final phase, a shortened version of today’s tough track. Will we see it separate the men from the boys again? And where can I actually get some potato bread, now that I mention it? Stay tuned to find out.