Britain scores first Aachen eventing team win in 10 years – Laura Collett: ‘It was nip and tuck at the end’

  • Britain topped the team competition in the Aachen eventing results for the first time in 10 years last week. But it was “nip and tuck in the end”, as team member Laura Collett said – the US team were just 0.3 of a penalty behind.

    Laura and Emilie Chandler led the charge in the SAP-Cup – Laura finished second on individual ride Dacapo and fourth on team mount Mr Bass, while Aachen debutante Emilie also claimed a podium place individually with third on Gortfadda Diamond.

    “People say Aachen is amazing and you build it up in your head – but it really was,” said Emilie, who added it was particularly nice after recent restrictions that both her mother and the horse’s owner Maria Doel could attend. “The week exceeded expectations in every way. It was a real experience and a fantastic result for the team and individually – I couldn’t believe it. We had good team spirit and it was a pleasure to be competing together.”

    Fifth after dressage on 28.7, Emilie and 12-year-old Gortfadda Diamond added just 1.2 time-faults in the showjumping and four time-penalties across country.

    “He put his best foot forward all week,” said Emily. “He did a really nice dressage test, which I was delighted with, and I think the showjumping was one of the best rounds he’s ever done. You never know if they are going to sink or swim in that big arena, but he obviously enjoyed it and really tried for me. It was a bit frustrating to have the time-faults; I was second to go [so didn’t have a chance to see how it was riding].

    “The cross-country was a bit fast and furious for my liking – he’s a big galloper so when you’re twisting and turning and going and coming back, it felt a bit messy, but he answered every question and really tried his best.”

    Aachen eventing results 2021: Emilie Chandler and Gortfadda Diamond

    Emilie Chandler and Gortfadda Diamond on their way to third place individually at Aachen 2021. Credit: Libby Law

    Dacapo also added just a handful of seconds over in the jumping phases to rise from seventh after dressage and take the runner-up spot for his owners Diana Chappell, Gillian Morris-Adams, Alison and Michael Smedley and Carolyn Taylor.

    “He’s really come into his own this week and it’s nice for him and his owners – who have been so supportive of me – that he has his moment in the spotlight. He’s always been in the shadow of London 52 because they’ve done everything together,” said Laura, referring to her Olympic team gold medallist.

    Laura – who was third on her first visit here in 2012 on Rayef, at a tender 22 years old – said the cross-country course was on the softer side of what is normal at this venue.

    “A couple of the combinations were a bit kinder, but it still had the intensity and the time is so tight that that’s what causes the problem – if you really take the risks to get the time, you get caught out,” she said. “It suited Dacapo because he’s not the biggest galloper, but he’s very nippy and polite.”

    Mr Bass was fourth after dressage, had fence seven down in the showjumping to drop to seventh and then pulled himself back up to fourth with four time-faults across country.

    “He’s only run at Cornbury since Bicton in June so he was very full of himself and very happy to be at a big party – he thought Aachen was right up his street,” said Laura. “He was a bit too feisty in the showjumping – he thought he’d died and gone to heaven in a huge arena with lots of showjumps and he ran a bit at one, but he was in really good form.

    “Unlike Dacapo, the cross-country was not a track that suited Mr Bass as he is a big galloping horse. He got annoyed with me pulling him around and wanting to twist and turn, but he was really good through all the combinations.”

    Both Laura’s horses will be aimed at the five-star at Pau.

    Britain’s victory looked a lot more comfortable – and as if it would be paired with individual honours – until the closing seconds of the reverse order cross-country. After adding a clear showjumping to her equal seventh-placed dressage score, Kirsty Chabert went into the phase in the lead with her father John Johnston and Carole Somers’ Classic VI and was on her minute markers to make the time until the mare ran-out at the corner after an oxer in the final combination before coming back into the main arena.

    Kirsty dropped out of contention individually and Zara Tindall’s 18th-placed performance with Class Affair was brought into the team score, leaving Britain just ahead of the US.

    British chef d’equipe Philip Surl summed up: “It was a very pleasing result – tight at the end, but it’s small margins and it can go like that sometimes. The performances were very solid throughout.

    “Personally it was disappointing for Kirsty and a shame to get all that way round and have that happen. But hopefully she can take away the positives and realise what she’s sat on and what she’s achieved. Hopefully there will be other days. The horse is relatively inexperienced, she’s a quality mare and she turned in a personal best in the dressage, was very solid in the jumping and would have been easily in the time if she’d had no jumping faults.”

    Aachen eventing results 2021: Will Coleman takes individual title

    In the individual results, Will Coleman became the first US rider to take the title, riding the syndicate-owned Irish Sport Horse Off The Record, who completed a trio of 12-year-old horses at the top. Eleventh after dressage, they added just time penalties for finishing two seconds over the optimum across country (the fastest round) to their first-phase score.

    The pair were reserves for the US team at the Olympics and so trained in Aachen during pre-export quarantine.

    “I decided to try to make that experience as formative as I could for this horse, and I think it was,” said Will. “I do think it helped him, the fact that he was here for 10 days without being under any major stress. I think it played a part in his ability to come here and perform.”

    The US’s other counting scores came from Olympic travelling alternates Tamie Smith and Mai Baum, plus Ariel Grald and Leamore Master Plan, who were building on their third place at Luhmühlen CCI5* in June. Sydney Elliott and QC Diamantaire were their fourth team members.

    Elizabeth Power led the Irish to third on her home-bred mare Azure (ninth), backed up by Cathal Daniels (Rioghan Rua), Joseph Murphy (Calmaro) and Sam Watson (Ballybolger Talisman).

    Germany usually field their team for the forthcoming championship here and have been wildly dominant in the Aachen eventing results over the 15 years this competition has run, but with the fixture’s change of date this year and the Olympics and Europeans taking precedence for top pairs, they put out a quartet with less experience and finished fifth, between New Zealand and France.

    Andrew Hoy was also a winner in Aachen – he teamed with showjumper Lillie Keenan and four-in-hand driver Boyd Exell to take the Porta Cup, a fun combined competition in which all three disciplines are represented. Andrew rode the cross-country leg on Bloom Des Hauts Crets before running across the arena to jump on Boyd’s carriage.

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