ZARA Phillips returned to Bramham for the first time since the birth of her daughter Mia today as the crowds braved the early opening day elements for the 2014 Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials.
The queen’s grand-daughter will now perform her second dressage routine tomorrow, only this time spectators will swap the cagoules and brollies for sun cream and shades.
Phillips, 33, was the name on everybody’s lips today as the royal continued her step back up the eventing ladder, five months on from the birth of her first child.
And after a wet start, organisers are confident that this year’s event will be be blessed by not just a royal seal of approval but kinder weather for the last three days.
Phillips, married to Yorkshire-born rugby union star Mike Tindall, was all smiles as she performed today morning’s opening dressage routine in front of an excited crowd on Black Tuexdo.
And Bramham event director and land agent Nick Pritchard is anticipating more smiles tomorrow with Pritchard - thrilled by the appearance of the royal - confident the day one early downpours will soon be consigned to the past.
“It’s always great to have royalty at Bramham and it’s lovely to see Zara back competing again after having a baby,” Pritchard told the Yorkshire Post.
“Now we are really looking forward to the next three days.
“The weather is really, really important to Bramham and it really helps us when the sun is shining and everyone smiles.
“But we are hoping that the rain has now passed for the weekend and that people have packed their sun cream because they will hopefully need it!
“We’re always positive at Bramham and the forecast for Friday is really good.
“I’ve got my sun cream anyway and we’re really looking forward to the rest of the week.”
Sun cream was the last thing on the mind in the first few hours of today’s curtain-raiser which got underway under grey skies and a squall of showers.
Wellington boots, cagoules and umbrellas were the order of the morning as the thoroughfares in between the many trade stands threatened to turn into mud-baths. Initially, the chairs adorning the outside drinking and eating outlets were left inwards and empty.
But those seating areas were soon packed to the rafters as conditions improved throughout the afternoon.
“We are very, very lucky here because we are on limestone so the water drains very, very quickly,” said Pritchard.
“Literally a few hours with no rain and the water just disappears.
“The mud around the trade stands will go and people’s feet are great at levelling everything out.
“If it stays dry everything will be fine but either way there is so much going on here and over the next few days, even if it’s a bit grey.”
Phillips will again be the early attraction tomorrow when the royal takes her second entry High Kingdom through his dressage test at 11am.
The crowds will then swell even further from 4pm when entry is free ahead of late night shopping amidst a plethora of trade stands until 8pm.
Tomorrow then sees Bramham stage its ever popular cross-country test with light showers forecast as Huddersfield-born eventer Oliver Townend ambitiously aims to perform his cross country round on ODT Ghareeb at 11am ahead of being best man at his best friend Peter Clough’s wedding at Ripley Castle two hours later.
Townend will then return the following day when major honours will be decided come the final day’s show-jumping phases.
There’s plenty to look forward to at a horse trials given a royal seal of approval, and Pritchard remains optimistic the event can surpass even last year’s huge visitor numbers.
“It’s difficult to say about the numbers but last year we had just under 59,000 across the four days cumulatively,” he said.
“Our advance bookings were up on last year so fingers crossed we might break the magic 60,000.”