The penultimate leg of the 2019 Event Rider Masters series takes us to a new country and a brand new location. Join us as we set sail for Irish shores.
We'll be heading for marvellous Millstreet, arguably the jewel in Irish eventing's crown, for a two-day showcase of the fast, the furious, and the finessed. This is the last chance for our series contenders to bank points before we head into the series finale at Lignieres-en-Berry - but who will rise to the occasion, and who's going to buckle under the pressure?
Tucked away in unspoilt Co. Cork, Millstreet International Horse Trials is widely considered a destination event by the best of the best. Watched over by the spectre of Drishane Castle, the tough track marries traditional questions with technical tests - and a win here will require more than just the luck of the Irish.
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.
It's crunch-time now, and our ERM competitors will need to ask themselves if they're in it to win it. With just two events left in the 2019 series, they'll need to be - every point counts now, and nobody can afford to let a single opportunity pass them by.
With current series leader Jonelle Price away, the mice - or her leaderboard rivals, at least - will play. Australia's Bill Levett sits just behind her in second place, and with the incredibly experienced Shannondale Titan by his side, he's got one goal in mind: usurp the speed queen and take his rightful place atop the ERM throne.
To do so, though, he'll need to get past her husband. World Number One Tim Pricenever allows his competitors an easy win, particularly when he joins forces with his Arville winner, the indomitable Wesko. Nor, though, does last year's Event Rider Masters champion Chris Burton. Can the fastest man in the world pilot his 2018 Blair Castle winner Graf Liberty to the top spot once again?
It'll be a welcome return to the ERM for 2016 champion Oliver Townend, who spent much of the summer sidelined with an injury. Will young gun Ulises earn him a podium place ahead of his Burghley debut?
There's a strong British contingent on the hunt for points and podium placings, and none stronger than former leg winners Gemma Tattersall and Quicklook V and Alex Bragg, who rides Zagreb. They both bring precision and partnership to the table - but can they bring the speed when it counts?
Four of Ireland's finest are amply prepared to fight for the home side. Sam Watson, Sarah Ennis, and Cathal Daniels made up part of the silver medal-winning team at last year's World Championships, but even they could be eclipsed by Esib Power. Tough, determined, and blazingly quick across the country, Esib will be tapping into her racing roots to bypass the competition - and she'll need to, when she comes head-to-head with 2018 Chatsworth winners Sarah Ennis and Horseware Stellor Rebound.
With the best riders in the world - and among them, eight former ERM leg winners - heading up an eight-nation field, the competition is guaranteed to sizzle until its final seconds. There are points, placings, and the better part of £50,000 on the line - and in the Event Rider Masters, it's never over until it's over.
Join us as we start our final countdown. Are you ready?
CCIO4*-S FEI Nations Cup - Normandy Region - Departemental Council of Orne: close finish between Italy and France...but France won at the end
Since the first edition of the FEI Nations Cup at Le Grand Complet in 2017, the French squad has won...3 times. At the end of the suspense, the French, deprived of one of their best pairs (Qamilha, the mare of Thaïs Meheust, having been refused at the inspection on Sunday morning), had to stick together to succeed in winning against a highly motivated Italian team. At the top of the ooverall ranking of the circuit, Italy was keen to strengthen their leadership by winning in the Norman fields.
They met a strong and particularly united French team. Because when Jean Teulère, the first member of the team to start in this last test, went off the course with three poles on the ground, they were really down...and feeling the pressure growing! Because the Italians lined up the good performances, especially Ariana Schivo. "We first wanted to keep our second place and we hoped to go back to the first. It was doable, but very tight. Out team worked quite well, even if some of my team mates had some penalties, it was good" Ariana explained. She finished on a clear round and a 5th place.
When Clara Loiseau, as the second member of the French team to tackle the SJ course, had a pole down, things tightened. There was no other option than a clear round for the last rider to go for the French squad. Being in the lead so far added to suspense.
"When I compete with Punch, I obviously dream of winning but I know that my place is rather 3rd or 3rd. His record speaks for it." Karim Laghouag says. "It’s a great surprise, especially as the team relies on me for the victory. A team medal is really something special to me. To feel that extra pressure helped me. I ‘ve had a few 4 point show jumping results this year with him which is really rare. I’ve been riding him since he’s 4yo, he’s 16 now. I probably needed a bit of pressure to believe in it and do all I could to get that clear round. My wife would say : 'you should ride more the Laghouag way and less as an American. (laughters). I’ve realised that I could ride him with more pressure and get a better result.'"
On top of pocketing the team prize – the third in a row for France in the FEI Nations Cup, Karim Laghouag also won the series in front of two Brits David Doel and Kirsty Johnson, as Thomas Carlile (again!!) finished 4th. He could have won if Atos hadn’t added disappointing 4 penalty points to his score on the first fence of the course.