Bramham offers testing conditions

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THE weather did its best to cause major problems at Bramham International Horse Trials yesterday and there did have to be some last-minute alterations. But the main dressage events went ahead as planned and all looks set fair for the cross-country sections which will run today and tomorrow.

Two casualties of the poor weather yesterday were the Burghley Young Event Horse classes and the stallion parade. Both were cancelled to try and preserve the ground. There is disappointment too for Pony Club members as both their mounted games and showjumping competitions scheduled for the weekend have also been cancelled.

Bramham is a lucky event for William Fox-Pitt and he finished yesterday on a high, leading the way in the CCI three-star competition after the second day of dressage with horses in both first and second places.

He overtook his own overnight lead on Avoca Alibi to go into the top spot with Chilli Morning on a score of 39.2. New Zealand rider Lucy Jackson is in third place with Willy Do on a score of 45.6.

“I was very pleased, it’s a shame it’s not a dressage competition,” said Fox-Pitt, who has only been riding Chilli Morning since April.

After competing in pouring rain on Thursday, the problem for him yesterday was mud, but Chilli Morning coped well. Today they face a testing cross-country course which will be influential.

“The cross-country course will be demanding and tiring but it’s a super course,” said Fox-Pitt. “The coffin is a very serious fence and more of a four-star question.”

British riders, including Fox-Pitt, finished the second day of dressage in the top three places in the CIC three-star competition.

Leading the way is Laura Collett with Rayef on a score of 37.5 followed by Fox-Pitt and Neuf des Coeurs on 38.7 and lying in equal third place, Sarah Cohen and Treason on a score of 40.5 with New Zealand’s Andrew Nicholson and Avebury.

Zara Phillips finished in 10th place with High Kingdom on a score of two. Nicola Wilson and Opposition Buzz were close behind her on 43.8. Wilson was also placed 13th with Applejack 11 along with Polly Stockton and Lucy Wiegersma.

“I was very pleased, he coped well in the mud,” said Laura Collett, who is now hoping for a good run in the cross country. This would put her back on track after a recent fall at Saumur.

In the lead after dressage in the Bishop Burton College CCI three-star competition is the young New Zealand rider, 23-year-old Lizzie Brown on a score of 39.0. Lying second is Chinese rider Alex Hua Tian riding Secret Picnic on 42.8 and in third place is British rider Tabitha Baird with Enoch on a score of 44.8.

Today’s action at Bramham will include the cross country for the CCI three-star and Bishop Burton College Under-25 competitions. The CIC three-star cross country, which is a slightly shorter course, will run tomorrow.

This is the third year that former Olympic rider Ian Stark has designed the cross-country course. The start and finish of the course have been moved again. This time the start is at the top of the warm-up area, next to the stables above the main water complex and the finish is also near the stables, at the bottom of the warm-up area.

This should solve the problem of horses having to negotiate the crowds but it does mean that the finish is uphill, testing the fitness of the horses. The CCI track includes a new “coffin” fence at 13 and 14 which has upright rails followed by a steep downhill section and then up to more rails.