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.