British eventers triumph for second year in a row at prestigious CHIO Aachen as course juggles leaderboard

  • The British team led from start to finish to take top honours in the prestigious SAP-Cup at CHIO Aachen.

    The squad, made up of Kirsty Chabert (Classic VI), Izzy Taylor (SBH Big Wall), Laura Collett (Dacapo) and Emily King (Valmy Biats), proved unassailable, finishing on 112.8, ahead of the USA in second on 123.7 and Ireland in third on 138. The German team were fourth on 147.5.

    Laura, who finished best of the Brits in third individually aboard Dacapo, a 15-year-old owned by Diana Chappell, Gillian Morris-Adams and Michael Smedley, said: “Everything here is so special – the atmosphere, the crowds. We don’t get to jump in a stadium like this anywhere else in the world.”

    There had been musings among competitors that the cross-country track, designed by Rüdiger Schwarz for the final time after many years holding the role here, was softer than in previous seasons. However, from 44 cross-country starters, 28 jumped clear, with two making the optimum time of 6min50sec.

    British chef d’equipe Philip Surl commented of the CHIO Aachen result: “It was a great result and an interesting competition in the end looking at the statistics after the cross-country – it was maybe not what everyone thought it would be after walking it earlier in the week.”

    Laura said of the track: “It was a go-cart course, one obstacle followed the next – it’s always demanding here but Dacapo loves the crowds – he switches off around long, galloping tracks, so he loves Aachen.”

    This is the fourth time since 2011 that the British team have won here – previously in 2011, 2021 and 2022 – proving their strength in depth in terms of the riders the nation has in their arsenal.

    The USA team, consisting of James Alliston and Karma, whose speedy cross-country round meant they finished ninth individually, having been 33rd after the dressage, plus Alyssa Phillips and Oskar, Hallie Coon and Cute Girl and Liz Halliday with Shanroe Cooley, proved they have firepower for the future, both in equine and human form, given that the former three combinations were making their first visits to Aachen.

    “For three of our team never to have competed here before and to step up and jump four clear rounds in the showjumping was incredible,” said Liz. “Plus a lot of great cross-country rounds from us today is very exciting, especially as some of us are on younger horses. It was great that we could fight until the end.”

    Bar Joseph Murphy’s Calmaro, the Irish team were also fielding a team of less experienced horses in the shape of Millridge Atlantis (Ian Cassells), Ballyneety Rocketman (Sam Watson) and Isazsa (Austin O’Connor).

    “To finish third against two big nations with big budgets is very pleasing – sometimes we have to go to the charity shop, but we’re coming for you,” joked Sam Watson.

    “Our owners that support us and our personal sponsors make a big difference, but for me, it’s my team mates and Dag Albert, who is our eventing team manager, and the attitude of the likes of Lucy Latta, who was second at Badminton this year, Austin, who won the five-star at Maryland in 2023, and the team winning the Nations Cup at Millstreet earlier this year; Ireland keeps chipping away and when we can get the support to be as professional and have a system around us – we couldn’t afford to have our team coaches here – we have the attitude and we’ll always be here.”

    There was a shake up in the individual competition when two-phase leader Michael Jung withdrew FischerChipmunk FRH before cross-country.

    “It was always the plan not to run him across country,” said Michael of the 16-year-old, owned by the German Olympic committee for equestrian sport, Michael’s father Joachim and Klaus and Sabine Fischer, who is named on the German team for the looming Paris Olympics. “FischerChipmunk is in such great shape at the moment and better than ever, but we need two or three more gallops before Paris.”

    CHIO Aachen: individual shake-up

    CHIO Aachen 2024

    Julia Krajewski riding Nickel 21 at Aachen in 2024.

    Germany’s Paris-bound combinations of Chistoph Wahler and Carjatan S, who were third after two phases, and Sandra Auffarth and Viamant Du Matz, who were seventh before the cross-country, both retired two-thirds of the way round the cross-country – as was always the plan.

    Christoph and Carjatan S made what they jumped look incredibly easy, however Viamant Du Matz flew past a narrow triple brush at fence 10ab.

    “I think I got my line wrong and wasn’t totally focused so my horse was never totally focused on the fence,” said Sandra.

    Their compatriot Julia Krajewski ultimately took individual honours with an incredibly consistent Nickel 21, who is still only a 10-year-old. She added 6.4 cross-country time-faults to her 23.9 dressage.

    “Winning in Aachen is, of course, always very, very special,” said Julia, who last won here on Chipmunk FRH in 2018, before he was sold to Michael Jung to ride. “It is almost like a championships. But there is so much between hoping to win and actually winning. I wasn’t predicted to win, which makes it all the better when it is a surprise. I still can’t really believe that it actually happened.”

    Germany’s Calvin Böckmann, who is 23 years old, was second with The Phantom Of The Opera. Calvin becomes the youngest rider to finish on his dressage score in this class at CHIO Aachen, and was one of the two to finish inside the optimum time across country – the other being Australia’s Chris Burton, who was fourth with Clever Louis.

    “I think my horse and I have grown together incredibly over the last two-and-a-half-years,” explained Calvin, who took on this 13-year-old, who he co-owns with Jason, Liam, Roger and Simone Böckmann, from Sandra Auffarth. “We were at the five-star in Kentucky at the beginning of this year and I think that has bonded us even closer together – I trust him totally and he trusts me, which makes it possible to take the first distance and cut turns.”

    Emily King and the consistent Valmy Biats had the win at their mercy when setting off on course, with a buffer of 2.3 penalties to finish ahead of Julia. However the 15-year-old gelding finished 12 seconds over the optimum time to complete on 32.8 in fifth, 2.5 penalties adrift of Julia.

    “With the intensity of the course, he definitely felt different, which he never had before – we were up on our minutes at the beginning but he went a bit foggy in his brain, but he was still amazing and is such a big, bold, strong horse, so it took a bit more time for me to set him up,” explained Emily of her first-time Aachen performance with this gelding, who is owned by her father David King, his breeder Philippe Brivois and the Valmy Biats Syndicate.

    Belgium’s Lara de Liedekerke-Meier, who is fresh from her five-star victory at Luhmühlen, once again impressed, finishing sixth and seventh aboard Ducati D’Arville and Hermione D’Arville respectively at CHIO Aachen.

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