Paul Tapner took every “calculated” risk as possible to land this year’s MS Amlin Eventers Challenge at the Royal International Horse Show today (Thursday, 27 July).
Partnering his own Bonza King Of Rouges, the Australian rode a brave round, cutting every corner where possible — including the turn to the problematic gate at fence two.
The pair followed eventual third Ireland’s Joseph Murphy, who had set a great time of 128.64 seconds. However, Paul quickly slashed that time by 0.89 of a second, also “going for it” at the last fence — a hedge with white rails.
“I really do enjoy this class,” said Paul. “My horse is so brave and fast, just the type of horse you’d expect to do well in this class.
“He is quite a big horse and he did slip on a few occasions — particularly going behind the bank, which most people didn’t see!
Returning once again for a stab at the top honours, Abi Walters produced a gutsy display aboard Hannah Brown’s “marvellous” Perfick Miss Amber.
The penultimate rider returned home in a time of 128.37 — the pair were foot-perfect throughout, despite a slight tap of the final white rails.
The course tested both horse and riders to the max, over a combination of rails, brush fences, ditches and the renowned Derby and Irish banks — there was no shortage of penalties in this popular class.
The bogey fence turned out to be early on in the 21-fence track. The problematic gate at fence two fell foul of a number of eventers including Vittoria Panizzon, Shane Rose and Alex Bragg who all knocked it — plus Alice Dunsdon, who did well to stay in the plate after being thrown onto Cool Dude’s neck.
“The first fence was a nice slopping fence to get them started and then fence two, the gate, came up pretty quickly and was quite a tight turn back,” added Paul. “I think it was a sudden change in ‘jump style’ that caught horses out.”
There were two fallers from the 21 starters. Pippa Funnell had a mirror fall to that of her unseating in Aachen over the weekend. Billy The Biz had once again been foot-perfect up until the final fence, where he appeared to try and bank the wide hedge fence — pecking on landing and dislodging Pippa.
Ireland’s Austin O’Connor was unseated at the Irish bank but fortunately landed on his feet.
Don’t miss the full report from the Royal International Horse Show in Horse & Hound — on sale Thursday, 3 August.