Chatsworth House is a setting as timeless as the sport itself: for centuries, it has been the seat of Dukes, Duchesses and, in more recent history, sporting champions. It may be one of the most beautiful and exclusive locations in England, but Chatsworth means business - only a handful of competitors have ever made the time across its infamous cross-country track. Prepare for an incomparable leaderboard shake-up.
The stage is set for an epic showdown of guts and gumption. But the first phase of the competition? Making it through #ERMtheCut, in which our field of entrants is whittled down to the final thirty. Thirty of the biggest stars in the sport of eventing. Thirty riders, and thirty horses, who are determined to put on a show you'll never forget. Here's what to expect.
Featuring eight of the world’s top 20 event riders, and spanning nine different nationalities, the Chatsworth line-up is a veritable who’s-who of eventing talent. The hot class of thirty includes all three of our previous series winners, the Event Rider Masters themselves: 2016 victor and World Number One Oliver Townend dons the premiere tabard aboard double ERM runner-up Cillnabradden Evo, while 2017 winner Gemma Tattersall follows him into battle as number three aboard her Rio Olympics mount Quicklook V. 2018 saw the title head to one of the Southern Hemisphere’s finest, and Aussie Chris Burton (10) will be looking to hang onto it for another year. The fastest man in the world will be riding his exciting new horse Lawtown Chloe – but will she be speedy enough to fend off pretenders to the throne?
There’ll be plenty of those: recent Belton winners Tom McEwen and Figaro van het Broekxhof will compete under number two, while Tom’s fellow gold medal-winning teammate - and reigning Chatsworth title-holder - Piggy French will pilot her secret weapon Brookfield Inocent in the fourth slot.
You can find half the dynamic EquiRatings team in the commentary box, but while Diarm Byrne props up the mic, his business partner and best friend Sam Watson will be blazing around the course in fifth position aboard the striking dun Tullabeg Flamenco. He'll need to be quick - after all, he's got busy Izzy Taylor just behind him wearing number six. Cool, calm, and collected, she's one of the fastest women around.
Meanwhile, we'll see a match-race of future superstars of the British team as Junior European Champion Bubby Upton (24) and Fernhill Rockstar face off against former Pony European Champion Yasmin Ingham (25) and Rehy DJ. The last time we saw this competitive duo come head-to-head was in the Young Rider National Championships, when Yaz edged Bubby into second place. Could this be Bubby's redemption song?
Ireland's Cathal Daniels (8) and Rioghan Rua have strong Chatsworth form, and they'll need to use all of it to close the backstop against the continental contingent. France's pin-up boy Astier Nicolas (9) and Arpege du Mancel head a formidable front, while German national championJulia Krajewski (11) can never be underestimated. She'll head into the trenches on Amande de b'Neville, while Dutch national champion Tim Lips comes armed with the dynamic Eclips.
With four leg-winning combinations, eight leg-winning riders, and multiple Olympic medallists heading to Derbyshire to battle it out for their share of the £50,000 prize pot, leg one of the 2019 Event Rider Masters series promises to be action-packed from start to finish. And at Chatsworth? Well, nothing is ever guaranteed - no matter how many medals you've won.
Easter Sunday at Bicton Arena International Horse Trials promises to provide the whole family with a feast of high octane sporting action coupled with free entertainment for the children.
For sports aficionados, entries read like a who’s who of eventing with more than 800 horse and rider combinations in action over the course of the competition which takes place from April 19 to 21.
The feature class is the Rathbones CCI-S three star, an international class that has attracted riders of the highest caliber including Andrew Nicholson, Christopher Burton and World Equestrian Games team Gold Medallist Tom McEwen.
Other riders in action including World Games silver medalist Padraig McCarthy
In the Goodbye Flys advanced intermediate, several horses are having a preparation run ahead of the Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials including Ireland’s Padraig McCarthy who rides his World Equestrian Games silver medalist Mr Chunky.
Other Badminton bound horses in action are New Zealand’s Mark Todd with NZB Campino and Australia’s Sam Griffiths on Billy Liffy.
Organiser Helen West said: “Every year Bicton Arena goes from strength to strength and this has been our strongest entry yet since we first held international classes. We have some fabulous sponsors on board and a great team of volunteers and its thanks to all of them that we are able to hold three days of first class competition.”
While the world’s top event riders provide the equine entertainment, for children on Easter Sunday there’s an Easter egg hunt in the main arena. The hugely popular Tractor Ted will be in attendance with his giant puzzles, and activity trail, while for further cuddly adventures there’s a mini farm.
There’s also a Family Dog Show sponsored by Vetspec for Dogs with fun classes just £2 to enter.
Easter Sunday at Bicton Arena’s International Horse Trials will be action packed and filled with fun, while Good Friday and Easter Saturday are the chance to enjoy the East Devon countryside, browse the tradestands, and watch great riders and horses in action. There is also onsite catering and a licensed bar.
Entry is £10 per car on each day. Further details are available at www.bicton-arena.co.uk