Though he was to be denied a third successive victory in the sixth and final stage of the Event Rider Masters (ERM), Oliver Townend today was runner-up and thus crowned the overall series winner, landing an extra £30,000 in the process.
In a thrilling finish — aided by the clever design of this new reverse-order event with its motor racing-style podium presentation — today’s contest went right to the wire. Oliver’s total earnings in the new ERM series, launched this year, are now £74,000.
“It’s the biggest step forward in our sport recently to have a chance of making a living from prize money,” said Oliver of the ERM.
Aboard Cillnabradden Evo, the horse he’s won the past two legs on at Blair and Gatcombe, but suffered a nasty fall from at Barbury, Oliver climbed from equal 10th after dressage to the runner-up spot by virtue of a rare showjumping clear and fast cross-country just two seconds over the optimum.
Of his horse today he said: “Of course he has his quirks, but his dressage and showjumping are good and he can gallop this distance — he’s the most competitive horse I have for this class.”
Victory went to the last to go across country, Frenchman Thomas Carlile on the fabulous stallion Upsilon, who’d been lying equal second after dressage.
“The horse is only eight and people ask me why I did not do the CIC3* with him,” said his rider. “I tell them ‘common sense’!”
Thomas — who was born in Toulouse to British parents, and lives in France — explained the horse was bred by friends who live only half an hour away. He will now have some time off before serving stud duties: “He’s probably done too much for an eight-year-old… and they [the French selectors] said he was too young for Rio. But what a horse!”
After a truly sodden day for dressage yesterday, the showjumping phase yielded 12 clears and only two went clear inside the time across country – Beanie Sturgis on her old campaigner Lebowski; and Paul Tapner on Yogi Bear VIII.
Paul had been in the lead of the ERM series up to Blenheim — but two showjumps down relegated him to eighth and allowed Oliver to take the overall spoils.
Jonelle Price, who’d been joint second with Thomas after dressage on her smart San Remo-sired Cloud Dancer II – the CIC3* winner here last year – finished only one second over the time, but had one showjump down, so finished third. Her consistency across the series left her in second place overall collecting a further cheque for £15,000. Paul finished third in the series overall.
Full report from Blenheim in H&H next week, out Thursday, 15 September.