Who’ll be leading the field at Bramham?

Oliver Townend on Neo Du Breuil at the Water jump
Oliver Townend on Neo Du Breuil at the Water jump
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With the Bramham International Horse Trials starting on Thursday, Jill Armstrong selects the riders and horses to watch.

Who will be the riders and the horses to follow when Bramham International Horse Trials gets underway next week? We picked out some of the most interesting combinations for our Bramham Top 10.

1: Blyth Tait Class: CIC*** Number:167 Horse: Santos 11

A former world and Olympic champion, he is back eventing after a break of seven years. Like his old team mate, Mark Todd, he has an eye on London 2012 but realises he has some catching up to do before that may happen. He recently rode at Chatsworth Horse Trials and is aiming for Burghley. Watch out for him on his favourite phase, the cross country.

2: On Springs Class: CCIU25*** Number: 130 Rider: Jolyse Clancey

This one’s a real local family affair. Homebred by the Clanceys, this mare is the third generation of a breeding programme and her grandmother, On Song, competed at Bramham in 1998 ridden by Jolyse’s mum, Alyse. It all started with the great mare Augermist who completed Bramham three times and went on to be successful at four star level.

3: Laura Collett Class: CCIU25*** Number: 129 Horse: Noble Bestman

Laura is our “one to watch” in the rider stakes. This young lady’s confidence is sky-high after an amazing Badminton Horse Trials debut with Rayef just a few weeks ago. They finished eighth and took home an armful of trophies and really made a name for themselves in the top flight. She is the proud owner of seven, yes seven, FEI Gold medals across Pony, Junior and Young Rider European Championships – and she’s only 21 years old.

4: Briarlands Blackberry Class: CCI*** Number: 75 Rider: Izzy Taylor

This will be Briarlands Blackberry’s fifth trip to Bramham – the third with his current rider, Izzy Taylor. He’s completed 10 three-day events and amassed 354 points. Nothing usual there... until you find out he only has one eye! Horses adapt amazingly well to the loss of an eye and his rider Izzy says it makes no difference to the way he goes and he’s still as enthusiastic as ever.

5: Tina Cook Class: CIC*** Number: 174 Horse: Miners Frolic

It’s not every day you get to see a current double Olympic Bronze medallist, European Champion and World team Champion in a park in Yorkshire. Kristina and “Henry” are all of those things – what a record. They’re at Bramham to get their selection hopes back on track to defend their title at this year’s European Championships after a freak injury forced them to withdraw from Badminton. They’ll be keen to impress so will be pulling out the stops for a competitive few days. Kristina also rides Carraig Dubh and Regal Red in the Welcome to Yorkshire CCI***.

6: Billy Andretti Class: C CI*** Number: 86 Rider: Pippa Funnell

The rider should be reason enough to watch this horse as Pippa bids to defend the Bramham title she won last year with Redesigned. However, this horse is special – he’s one of the first success stories from Pippa and William Funnell and Donal Barnwell’s Billy Stud. Pippa has nurtured him carefully even though he showed great promise from the onset by winning the BE 4 -year- old Breeding Championships in 2006 on a score of just 15. He’s been placed twice in the top four at Le Lion d’Angers in France, the “World” Breeding Championships as a six and seven- year-old. 2011 has started well with two wins this spring and 15th in the World Cup Qualifier at Chatsworth in May. Pippa also rides Pure Addiction in the CCI***.

7: Dee Hankey Class: CCI*** Number: 37 Horse: Chequers Playboy

A bit of showbiz glamour about this pairing. As a rider, Dee is known to many for her partnership with the mountain of a horse, Big El. But before eventing became her focus, Dee was part of the pop trio, The Paperdolls. Their main hit was Gonna Make you Blush and they supported Boyzone on tour. One of her band mates was Lucy Pargeter – none other than Chastity Dingle from Emmerdale.

8: Neo du Breuil Class: CCI*** Number: 32 Rider: Oliver Townend

Huddersfield’s Oliver Townend is quickly becoming a global commodity – successful rider, calendar pin up and now proprietor of a highly regarded equestrian stud – his talents know no bounds. In this horse, Neo du Breuil, he has another star in the making. A French-bred Anglo Arab, the horse has won three of his four outings this spring – including a win at last month’s CIC*** at Chatsworth. This will be Oliver’s first three day at this level with the horse but omens are looking good.

9: Nicola Wilson Class: CCI*** Number: 73 Horse: Bee Diplomatic

Our local eventing superstar, Nicola has been to every Bramham since 2003 and ranks the event amongst her favourites. She has just one ride here this year – Bee Diplomatic who was 10th last year. He was ready to make the jump to four star this year but they didn’t have a happy time at Badminton so he’s re-routed here. Nicola is searching for a star to follow Opposition Buzz – could this Bee leave her buzzing?

10: William Fox-Pitt Class: CCI*** & CIC***

A Bramham guide on who to follow wouldn’t be complete without this popular rider who’s won Bramham an unrivalled five times. William’s eyes are firmly set on gold at next year’s London Olympics and Bramham will give him a fine opportunity to test his young entry to determine if any are up to the task. He has three rides – Lionheart in the CCI and Avoca Alibi and Gaucho in the CIC. All three horses are relatively new to this level but with William onboard, anything could happen.