NORTHALLERTON eventing star Nicola Wilson is hoping to make it a hat-trick of happy American memories in this weekend’s prestigious Rolex Kentucky CCI four-star in Lexington.
London 2012 silver medallist Wilson is heading Stateside in exalted company alongside Zara Phillips as part of just four riders travelling from Great Britain.
Phillips, the Queen’s grand-daughter, will ride High Kingdom while world No 1 William Fox-Pitt also takes last year’s winner Bay My Hero for the first of just six calendar year CCI four-stars – the highest level of eventing.
Francis Whittington is also represented by Easy Target yet Wilson heads across the Atlantic with not one but two shots at glory with Watermill Vision – owned by Richmond-based James and Jo Lambert – as well as Annie Clover, who is owned by the rider’s parents, Mary and Barry Tweddle.
Competition begins tomorrow with Wilson’s appearance all the more impressive given that nine weeks ago she was laid up with a broken collarbone after suffering a fall.
The Yorkshire rider has previous at Lexington with her much missed former stable star Opposition Buzz 11th in 2009 – the year before Wilson won gold at the same venue with Team GB in the 2010 World Equestrian Games.
With both the 2015 European Championships at Blair and the 2016 Rio Olympics looming, Wilson is determined to keep on impressing and has every intention of returning home with more happy USA memories.
Wilson, 38, told The Yorkshire Post: “Going to Lexington is really exciting for us as a yard and all our connections and sponsors.
“Opposition Buzz went there in 2009 – he was 11th in the four-star there, and of course I went there with the British team when the World Equestrian Games were there in 2010 and the team won team gold.
“I’ve had two successful trips to Lexington and hopefully these younger horses can do equally well, if not better.”
Wilson warmed up for her top-class American assignment at Belton Park International last weekend where her two 2015 Equi-Trek Bramham International Horse Trials hopefuls, Bulana and Ngong Hills, were in action.
Ngong Hills was sixth in the CIC two-star class while Bulana was 28th in the CIC three-star.
While he is giving Lexington a miss, Huddersfield’s world no 4 Oliver Townend continues to enjoy a blistering start to 2015 with the rider savouring two more victories at Belton Park.
Note Worthy was triumphant in his CIC two-star class while Power Drive won at Intermediate level.
Townend had a crunching fall at Lexington in 2010 on Ashdale Cruise Master, but says he will return next year when his blossoming team of young horses are a year wiser.
Townend said: “I wouldn’t be too keen on that this year but next year we should have a strong team to go there. It’s a long way if you are going there to not be very competitive.”
Townend instead heads to Ballindenisk in Ireland this weekend and the Yorkshireman will return to British action with five horses entered at Withington Manor the following weekend.
The 32-year-old is then aiming Armada at the first of Britain’s two CCI four-star classes – the Badminton Horse Trials run from Thursday, May 7 until Sunday, May 10.
Wilson is hoping to be doubly represented by One Two Many and Beltane Queen.
On the dressage front, last weekend saw the NAF Five-Star Winter Dressage Championships take place at Hartpury and two of Yorkshire’s rising stars of the sport were pleased with their efforts.
Fridaythorpe-based 18-year-old Jack Wainwright went with three shots of glory on board Dark Bacardi in the Blue Chip Novice Restricted, the Baileys Horse Feeds Novice Open Music Freestyle and the PDS Saddles Elementary Restricted Music Freestyle
Wainwright said: “I was chuffed to bits as we did some nice tests, but we weren’t quite good enough.
“I learned a lot of lessons; my most pleasing result was coming 11th in the elementary music.”
Whitby-based Cara Shardlow took Detonator II for the Charles Owen Advanced Medium Restricted and Sunday’s Petplan Equine Area Festival Advanced Medium Restricted.
Shardlow said: “It was not too bad. A very costly mistake in a flying change cost us a placing in the first event so we ended up 11th, which I’m pleased with.
“He was not so good on the Sunday. The atmosphere got to him again, but he is still only young so hopefully it will improve as time goes on.”