Touching victory for Nicholson while McEwen and Tattersall win big

The story could win awards had it been a work of fiction but this year’s final result in the Equi-Trek CCI3* is factual and all the characters are very real.  New Zealand rider Andrew Nicholson scored his third Bramham win with Deborah Sellar’s nine year old Jet Set IV.  That’s pretty special on its own.  But what makes this into a blockbuster is the fact that this was Andrew’s first attempt at a three day event since his life changing accident at Gatcombe Park last August.  Just a matter of months ago, it was touch and go whether or not Andrew would walk again, let alone ride.  But he’s renowned for his strong will and it was just that which inspired him to get better; giving up was not an option.

Last to go in the dressage, Andrew lay fifth with Jet Set IV with 41.0 ahead of Saturday’s cross country test; which he admitted looked on the ‘big side’.   Andrew and Jet Set cruised around Ian Stark’s tough test, making it look decidedly on the ‘small side’ to move up to third.   Andrew clearly thinks a lot of this Nordico-sired gelding, who was runner up in the World Young Horse Championships as a six year old.

Today’s show jumping course set by Di Boddy proved very influential, with none of the top six horses managing a clear.  Andrew put the pressure on the top two when he lowered just a single rail so with one hand on the Sugden Perpetual Trophy and the other on the keys to the Equi-Trek Sonic horsebox, all Andrew could do was wait.  Second placed Sammi Birch with Hunter Valley also had a rail but also two costly time penalties which then promoted Leicestershire rider Lauren Shannon with Claire Poole’s stunning mare Quality Purdey to second.  So, it was down to Huddersfield-born Oliver Townend with Tom Joule’s MHS King Joules.  He had one fence in hand, but no more room for error.  The crowd were silent; willing the local rider to go clear but one down…and a second.  The pair dropped to third and victory went to Andrew.

Andrew won here in 2006 with Henry Tankerville and again three years later with Nereo, also owned by Deborah Sellar so duly claimed his hat-trick with this extra special victory.

Andrew commented; “I’ve been away for a few months and to win here after the absence feels great.   It’s been such a team effort to come this far.  I owe so much to surgeon Jeremy Reynolds who fixed me and of course my wife Wiggy who has stood by my through everything.  It’s so tough for her, after all, I’m back doing the sport which nearly ruined me.  My owners have been incredible while I’ve been off and they’ve supported me so much.  I can’t thank the team who’ve got me here now.

One journalist asked him; “Are you brave or crazy?”  Andrew thought carefully and cooly replied; “I’d say crazy.  It’s easy to be brave.  I try to be calculated about it all and ride only the good ones.”

He continued; “It was tense at the end but there’s no point worrying about the others and how they ride, you can’t control that.  You have to stick to your game plan.”

The win clearly meant a lot to the Wiltshire rider;  “It’s touching – the crowd here at Bramham are knowledgeable  horse people.  You feel they appreciate when you do a good job.

A slightly disappointed Oliver reflected on what may have been; “It is what it is. At the beginning of the week, I would definitely have settled for third place. He’s been here before with Mary (King) and Andrew (Nicholson). It’s been a good experience and I’ve learnt more about him at my first proper three day event on him. He wasn’t tired; it’s his best performance at this level, showing progression and the results keep getting better and better, so I’m pleased with how it’s all gone.”


British Equestrian Trade Association CIC***

British ladies lined up on the podium of the British Equestrian Trade Association CIC*** section, cementing Gemma Tattersall’s current peak of top form, she took the title on Christopher Stone’s 12-year-old mare Chico Bella P. A nerve-wracking final phase of show-jumping in the electric atmosphere of the Equi-Trek Arena proved clear rounds and kicking on for a tight time were essential to remain in the top spots of this hotly contested class.

William Fox-Pitt proved his return to form with a clear inside the time upon the striking chestnut stallion Chilli Morning moving him to within the top ten to finish in eighth. Local lady Nicola Wilson, is on fire with her Houghton International winner One Two Many, who is knocking on the Olympic selectors’ door, she finished with a clear inside the time.

The only none-British rider to contest the top five was kiwi Tim Price on 10-year-old Bango, who he has had since he was three, he posted a clear with two time penalties. Also caught out by the time was British Olympic team hopeful Kitty King who clocked up an expensive single time penalty on super talented nine-year-old Ceylor LAN ,who cleared every fence with room to spare, to move down a place to fourth.

This made way for eventing stalwart and crowd favourite Pippa Funnell, whose seamless clear upon Carol Toliver’s grey Billy the Biz by Cevin Z sneaked her up the leaderboard piling the pressure on for the top three. “We’re all riding under pressure as we all want the same dream” said Pippa, speaking after her round and referring to the prospect of Rio with selection wide open this year.

Next in was another Billy, this time Billy the Red, ridden by Sussex-based Tina Cook who bought him a couple of years ago and is thrilled with his progress.  She left all the rails up and her experience showed as she rode him effectively to get inside the time. The penultimate combination was a Bella rather than a Billy, the classy bay Chico Bella P ridden by Gemma Tattersall. Cruising round Di Boddy’s bold track, Gemma rode positively to finish on her dressage score of 42.7.

This left Yorkshire lass and leader after the cross country, 22-year-old Holly Woodhead in a tense position; it had to be a clear on her father Ian and Heidi Woodhead’s DHI Lupison to maintain her lead and make it a Bramham win two years in a row. Today wasn’t her day sadly, with ‘Luke’ clipping three poles to finish on 52 penalties and slot into eighth.

So it was a win for an ecstatic Gemma Tattersall who was thrilled with Chico Bella P’s double clear, particularly after having an annoying pole on her first ride Quicklook V. “She spooked at someone shouting in the crowd which isn’t like her. I rode it exactly the same with Bella and she was amazing, she’s such a trier.” As the top choice to go to Rio, according to her peers on the final podium Tina and Pippa in the press conference, with such consistent results all season it’s a wonder whether these exciting times have sunk in for Gemma. “No it hasn’t yet, I’m just trying to keep up the momentum. This win ranks pretty high, alongside my third place at Badminton on Arctic Soul who is a very special horse to me. The mare has been off with a foot injury earlier in the year but today she has proven she’s one of the best horses in the world.”



Bishop Burton College U25 CCI***

Tom McEwen took his second Bramham title in a tough final phase for the young riders contesting the conclusion of the Bishop Burton College U25 CCI*** with no clear rounds in the show jumping. Fourth placed Frenchman after the cross country, Francois Lemiere, had a costly two down on Ogustin Du Terroir. Sadly after finishing so confidently to be in second position yesterday, Bert Bolton on his own ex-racehorse Purple Sands had six poles down and two time faults to finish on 72.6 penalties down the leaderboard in tenth place.

Up and coming rider, 24-year-old Emily Pragnell who’s based near Lincoln, had just four faults on Maxine and Dennis Pragnell’s and her own DHI Beaunesse and were shocked to zoom up the leaderboard to finish in third place. “I wasn’t expecting this at all, the goal was just to complete here as it’s our first CCI***” said Emily who recently had a tenth place in the CIC*** at Chatsworth. The course suited the bold, quick-thinking mare by Vittorio. “We have to keep her thinking, at the CIC** Europeans last year she tipped me at the tenth fence with bitting issues. The aim is now Blenheim for the end of this year.”

Finishing second was 19-year-old Sam Ecroyd on his own gelding Wodan III. “He was solid in the show jumping to just have one rail down. I was conscious of the time and a tight turn just made him a little short of power. I came with low expectations as it’s our first time at this level and I had no idea how we’d run. I hope to come back next year, it’s the nicest cross country course I’ve ever ridden round and it really encourages positive riding.”

It was an inspiring win for Tom McEwen, who has won this class before in 2013, he had two fences in hand going into the show jumping ring and just rolled a pole to finish on 46.8 penalties aboard Frank and Jane Inn’s Toledo De Kerser.  “He’s a real good horse and really deserves it,” said a thrilled Tom, “he’s a very exciting future prospect.”

“It’s the first time he’s had a rail down this year so I’m annoyed at myself for that but he’s been phenomenal all week.”  Tom is in his last year of eligibility for the under twenty five section so it was a perfect last year at one of his favourite events. “I love this place and it really suits him. We’ll be looking at Pau or Burghley with him this autumn; he’s a superstar of a horse!”

For full results – click here

For audio interviews – click here

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An astounding day of action

Making an exciting start to a long day of cross country action, the Equi-Trek CCI*** culminated with local eventing hero Oliver Townend holding his lead on MHS King Joules. Adding nothing to his dressage score of 37.9, Oliver had a ‘fantastic’ round on Tom Joule’s 11-year-old gelding. “It’s a great position to be in,” said Oli, who is yet to claim the top position at Bramham despite coming to the event ‘for as long as he can remember’, “I’ll try and do my best tomorrow as he’s capable of jumping a clear.”

With only a fence between the top four, tomorrow’s show jumping is looking to be a tight affair. Australian rider Sammi Birch also maintained her second placed position with a clear across the country adding just 1.2 time penalties to her dressage mark. She had a confident round with her own 13-year-old homebred gelding Hunter Valley II. Speaking of Sunday’s show jumping, Sammi looks determined; “there’s more pressure when it’s so close but you’ve just got to concentrate on yourself. Anything could happen; it’s a different time on the third day so you never know how it’s going to go!”

Sammi’s third placed horse after dressage, The Court Jester, was retired at jump nine after a couple of stops.  A wise decision it seems, “he’s felt quiet all week and didn’t want to play game today,” said Sammi.  Andrew Nicholson consolidated his return to the top level speeding into third place, on the aptly named Jet Set IV, finishing on his dressage score of 41.

In the competitive Bishop Burton College CCI*** U25 section, previous winner of the class in 2013,Tom McEwen takes the lead after cross country on the relatively inexperienced 9-year-ol d gelding Toledo de Kerser who is owned by Frank and Jane Inns. “He coped well, cruising round really easily after setting off at my own pace. I took the long route in the second part of the first water jump but finished super easy with plenty of jump left. It was a well-built course to attack and have a bit of fun.” Tom added 2.4 time penalties to his dressage score to lead on 42.8 with only five penalties separating the top three going into the final phase.

Bert Bolton, a previous rider for Oliver Townend who now has his own base near Banbury, raised himself a position with a very fast clear on his own 12-year-old ex-racehorse Purple Sands to sit second going into the show jumping. “I was twenty seconds under the time, I’m not proud of it, it was faster than I would’ve liked. He was seriously up for it and didn’t fancy slowing much; I’m over the moon with him. He hasn’t had a clear show jumping round yet this year but tomorrow could be the time to do it.” After failing the Sunday morning trot-up sitting in ninth place in the same class last year, Bert will be keen to do today’s performance justice tomorrow.

Unfortunately after a second-placed dressage score, talented young rider Emily King retired with Patrick Beresford’s Charlemagne on the cross country, after a stop at the Speedi-Beet Double Feat. Moving into third position, and having a fantastic season after spending a winter with German eventing master Michael Jung, is 19-year-old Sam Ecroyd on his own Wodan B. “He finished really well and didn’t have any worrying moments. He lost a front shoe early on so I took some turns a bit carefully.” With several Young Rider team prospects in his stables, Sam looks to be one to watch this summer.

Holly Woodhead, just 22, put her past experience of the terrain, twists and turns of the Bramham Park to her advantage to finish the day in prime position in the British Equestrian Trade Association CIC3*.  Riding Heidi and Ian Woodhead’s DHI Lupison, whom she partnered to win the Bishop Burton College CCI3* last year, Holly cruised round to finish three seconds inside the time to post an unassailable lead score of 40.0.

The rumours of dressage leaders Pia Munker and Louis M withdrawing proved true which duly handed the lead to Holly before a cross county fence was jumped.  Once the cross country was under way, Aussie Paul Tapner set the pace early on with a classy clear on Yogi Bear VIII, owned by Amanda Burns.  Just a few horses later, the in-form Gemma Tattersall stole the lead with one of the rounds of the class with Christopher Stone’s Chico Bella P, adding nothing to a dressage of 42.7.

Kristina Cook, another Brit in flying form, also rose up the ranks with a clear inside the time with Elisabeth Murdoch’s Billy the Red, by the renown show jumping stallion Balou du Rouet.  Originally sixth after dressage, their faultless performance promoted them three places.

Holly said; “I’m extremely happy; my horse Luke was amazing cross country.  It was big and bold with a tight time; it was a highlight from start to finish.  It’s a privilidge to ride him round any of Ian Stark’s course.  I’ve had to pinch myself when I see the riders I’m among – they’re world class.  I hope he has his jumping   shoes on in the morning!”

So it’s a British female podium ahead of tomorrow’s all important show jumping where Holly will hoping to be adding a second Bramham title to her stable.

The final class of the day was the inaugural Event Rider Masters which built up to an exciting climax.  After the morning’s show jumping, the lead swapped from the USA to China when Alex Hua Tian more than made up for a disappointing round at the first leg at Chatsworth with a fault free performance on Don Geniro. One down for US duo Clark Montgomery and Loughan Glen moved them second while a clear from Jonelle Price for NZL with Faerie Dianimo promoted them a place.

The tension built as the final twenty went cross country in reverse order of merit and with both Clarke and Jonelle going clear inside the time, the pressure was on for young Alex.  But he rode with great composure and tact, taking extra care to keep the confidence of the sometimes quirky ‘Don’.  As they headed up the final pull to home, it looked like they had time to spare and once safely over the final fence, Alex punched the air jubilantly.  It’s a massive victory for the young rider; eventing is a relatively new sport in China and this international win will really help to put the sport, and Alex, firmly in the country’s eye with Rio on the horizon.  Alex takes home a handsome £16,000 first prize thanks to the innovative new series.  With a twinkle in his eye, Alex said; “I can’t believe it.  We were dead last at Chatsworth a few weeks ago and to be top of the podium having won now is just extraordinary. He’s such a talent and it’s just amazing.  This is such a great result for me and ERM.”

The next leg of the Event Rider Masters heads to Barbury, 7 – 10 July.

We get underway with the final horse inspections at 8:00am in the morning with the British Equestrian Trade Association CIC3* show jumping underway at 9:00 when the first of our three titles will be one on finals Sunday.

For full results – click here

For audio interviews – click here

Day two – dressage completed

Huddersfield born Oliver Townend took a step closer to realising a childhood dream when he finished atop the leader board in the Equi-Trek CCI3*.  Riding Tom Joule’s MHS King Joules, Oliver, was thrilled with the 11 year old Gareeb-sired gelding.  They were the first combination in front of the judges in the final group of riders and were consistent, active and well presented to score 37.9 to overtake long time leaders, Sammi Birch and Hunter Valley II of Australia.

Oliver said afterwards; “That was a very good start.  We were really hopeful for the horse to put up a big performance; we know that he’s very capable.  He’s got everything he needs to be absolutely exceptional and glad we put it all together in the dressage today.  He’s a good horse full stop.  If I do my job and he does his, then it’s all positive.  It’s very special here; a fantastic event that I’ve been coming to for as long as I can remember.  I’m extremely pleased with the horse and even more pleased for his owner, Tom Joule.  Let’s hope we’re in the same set up on Sunday night.”

Sammi came close to beating both Oliver and herself with her second ride, The Court Jester, but 40.4 just wasn’t quite enough and left her in third jointly with local heroine Nicola Wilson riding James and Jo Lambert’s Bulana.

The CCI class kicks off tomorrow’s cross country action at 9:00am.

Today was the turn of eventing’s newest concept, the Event Rider Masters, to get underway.  The dressage is run in ranking of the horse’s last five scores so the combinations should get better as the last few perform.   Maxime Livio was the first to set the podium alight with his 40.8 aboard Pica D’or to continue the French run of form the sport is witnessing.  He kept first spot for a long time until Aussie Bill Levett and the smart moving Shannondale Titan, owned by Claire Prentice and Bill, put up a largely mistake-free test to post our first sub-40 score of 39.0  China’s Alex Hua Tian followed Bill with Don Geniro and very nearly bettered his score but was just 1.1 penalties short.  Third last to go was British-based Texan Clark Mongomery with Holly and William Becker’s stunning Loughan Glen and they were a cut-above.  Even a momentary lapse of memory which resulted in an error of course couldn’t spoil the test which clocked up 36.5 penalties and top spot.

Clark, making his second visit to Bramham, commented; “He was a really good boy!  I must have enjoyed last night’s barbeque a bit too much as my mind just went blank in the walk!  I’m nervous ahead of tomorrow but really looking forward to it!”

The Event Rider Masters complete their show jumping from 8:30am before tackling Ian Stark’s cross country last tomorrow afternoon from 3:15pm.  You can catch all the ERM action via live stream on

Tom McEwen found himself in a familiar position in the Bishop Burton College u25 CCI3* with Sammi Birch’s Toledo de Kerser as he was in 2013 when he won the under 25s title aboard Diesel.  The leaderboard shuffled a few times through the afternoon but it was Tom who finished on top with 40.4 on the tricky gelding.  Second place is occupied by Devon rider Emily King with Sir Patrick Beresford’s Charlemagne who she’s ridden since he was four.  They scored 43.9 with Bert Bolton and Purple Sands just behind on 46.6.   It’s tight at the top so all to play for tomorrow.

Tom commented; “Really pleased with him.  He’s a young horse and has been progressing well through the year.  There’s still a lot to work on to get to the end aim.   He’s not easy – a complete fruit loop at home and we can’t jump him at home.  But he’s really started to enjoy the shows now and is a fantastic horse; tricky but I like him for it.”

For full results and times for Saturday – click here

For today’s rider and event interviews – click here

Day one – three worthy leaders

British-based Australian Sammi Birch (nee McLeod) blazed an early trail when sixth to go in Bramham’s feature class, the Equi-Trek CCI3*.  Riding her homebred Hunter Valley II, she was the only rider to break the forty penalty barrier with 38.7.  Sammi returned to competition this spring after giving birth to her son Charlie while horse ‘Gizmo’ was campaigned by British rider Tom McEwen.

A delighted Sammi said; “Fantastic to get a sub-40 score!  We’ve come here straight from Tattersalls where we had a ‘blip’ but I’m very much looking to put that right.  I’ve come here very relaxed…almost like I didn’t care quite so much.  I know he’s very capable in the dressage but I’ve really been looking forward to jumping the cross country. I came here for that reason so I was relaxed, and so was he, so that makes it better.  Competition pressure is a massive issue but if you take that aside, it becomes so much easier.”

She’s very much looking forward to Saturday’s cross country challenge; “It’s a serious track – but really looking forward to it!  I’ve never been here before – it’s amazing, incredible. You need a fit, good cross country horse but the course is scary but beautiful and very clever.  If you jump around here, the horse is definitely ready for four star.”  Before Saturday, Sammi has the small matter of dressage on her other ride, Court Jester, to complete tomorrow.

Second placed rider is Lauren Shannon, riding Claire Poole’s Quality Purdey, who came to Lauren when it was felt the mare would make a better event horse than the chosen show jumping path. Claire spotted Lauren’s talent when she saw her at ride Burghley and she was the obvious choice to partner the Quality-sired mare, then aged six.  Lauren said she’s been on a ‘fast track event course’ ever since but has been an amazingly quick learner.

Lauren was clearly thrilled; “I was just so pleased with her relaxation; she’s normally a tense mare!  I’ve worked hard with my trainer, Andrew Fletcher on the quality of her frame and today that showed.  I’ve never managed a test where everything went right but today, there were no mistakes – guess I got the ‘golden egg’!”

On Saturday’s cross country course; “I love it – always love Ian’s courses.  There’s plenty to jump, fair and nothing nasty.”

Lauren’s stunning dressage performance is somewhat bittersweet as she and partner Tom lost their 15 year old Labrador Ed yesterday but she was just thankful that she was with him at the end and rode for him today.

Huddersfield-born Oliver Townend lies third with the second of his three rides in the CCI class, William and Linda Bowen’s eye-catching dun, Sandiman II, by the KWPN jumping stallion Ekstein.

In the British Equestrian Trade Association CIC3*, Germany’s Pia Munker and Louis M kept up their stunning dressage record with a 39.3 to head the leader board after dressage – the pairing have never posted over 40 at three star level.  Last year’s Bishop Burton College u25 champions Holly Woodhead and DHI Lupison came close at the end of the day to toppling Pia but was just 0.7 behind on 40 penalties to lead the British challenge.  Holly, who’s suffering from a bout of ‘flu, said after her test; “I’m overwhelmed with him – especially as I’m not on top form. He was brilliant – he tried his heart out and really looked after me in there.  He was really rideable which helped so I’m extremely happy; he clearly likes this place and it’s my favourite event.  ‘Luke’ likes to be number one!  I’m off to rest – and then walk the cross country – I’m an northern girl, I’ll just get on with it!”



Kitty King continued her good dressage run with Jacquline Owen, Diana Bown and Samantha Wilson’s Ceylor L A N to finish on 42.6 to lie third.  “I was pleased with him, he was solid today,” said Kitty. “He was a bit behind my leg which meant he wasn’t quite as extravagant as he was at Chatsworth but he was consistent overall.  The judges were tough today – normally we’d see a few in the 30’s here but just one unusually.  I’m happy though – the score today shows there’s more marks to come and on Saturday, we’ll be giving it our best shot.”

Sussex rider Gemma Tattersall completes the top five with her two rides, Chico Bella P in fourth on 42.7 and Quicklook V fifth, with 42.9.

The rumour mill is working hard and if it’s to be believed, Pia has withdrawn ahead of Saturday’s jumping phases but we’ll bring you more on that when anything is confirmed.

The first half of competitors in the Bishop Burton College u25 CCI3* have done their dressage and it’s the American challenger Jennifer Caras who leads the way with her own Fernhill Fortitude on 48.9.  Jennifer is on a whistle-stop tour of Britain courtesy of a grant from the Karen Stives Developing Rider Grant from the United States Equestrian Federation which has enabled her to travel over from Pennsylvania where she’s based with USA team member Phillip Dutton.  A beaming Jennifer was clearly elated with her dressage performance; “He was awesome! There was a lot of atmosphere in there in the arena but he went in there and kept his head and put in a workmanlike test so I couldn’t be happier with him.  It was his best score by five or six points and my coach Phillip Dutton and I have been working really hard on getting him soft and relaxed. He was quiet and calm warming up and that bit of atmosphere brought him up a bit. I blew the last change which is totally my fault – kicking myself for that a little bit as know it could have been better but I’m thrilled with him.”

Second place is held by Emily Prangnell and DHI Beaunesse on 49.0 with Katie Bleloch, making her CCI3* debut, on Bulano third with 50.1.  The class continues tomorrow afternoon.

We get underway in the morning at 9:46 when the Equi-Trek CCI3* continues with Richard Long and Ms Independent and the new Event Rider Masters is alongside with Kiwi Tim Price leading the way with Obos Cooley.