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.

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