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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!”
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